It happens to all of us sooner or later. Someone asks us for help and we feel that we should respond. We risk, we reach out. Sometimes we are rewarded with seeing the person respond in a positive way and sometimes we get disappointed.
Often we get set up for disappointment after we have helped someone recover or get on their feet. We greet the next opportunity with an open heart and pour out our support in some way. It is many times after a heart warming experience with helping someone we have a heart breaking experience with the next. We feel used, conned, and foolish.
What is our response to this? Do we vow never to get taken advantage of again? Do we shut our hearts to those who claim they have need? Do we give in to the inner voices telling us we are a fool to believe in others? To be honest we experience a range of emotions from self criticism to anger. Where we end up with our emotions is most important.
Jesus also experienced disappointment from others. Peter, the very one who bravely proclaimed that he would never deny Jesus did that very thing when the pressure was on. It would have been easy for Jesus to respond out of hurt and say, “Really, Peter? After all we have been through? After walking on water, feeding a multitude with a little boy’s lunch, seeing the deaf hear and the lame walk, you would deny me?” It would have been so easy to indulge in self pity and anger. We often do.
So what is the right response when we are deceived and others are unfaithful to us? We might not like the answer and we might already suspect what it is. Forgiveness. Yes, that is right. Forgiveness.
We give what we have been given. Have we turned our back on God? Have we done what we said we would not do? Have we been unfaithful to Him? Yes. Yes. Yes. Do we love the fact that Jesus offers us forgiveness in spite of deserving it? And, yes.
What we have freely received we are to freely give. Just because people are sometimes unfaithful does not mean God is unfaithful. When it comes down to it, we will be judged not for the outcome of helping others but for our response to being asked. Our judgment is not on the results but on our response.
Let me quickly insert here that forgiveness does not demand that we “help” the offender take advantage of us again. No, we are not required to be unwise. In fact such “help” is no help at all, it is enablement. But we should attempt to help them in other ways that will redirect their focus from taking from others to finding ways to be productive and serve.
Someone the whole world seemed to admire was Mother Teresa. How did she win such admiration? She seemed to live an unselfish, not bitter life. These words attributed to her state the response we are to give to those who are unfaithful or ungrateful in an inspiring way:
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind,
people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful,
you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight.
If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough.
Give the best you’ve got anyway.
in the final analysis it is between you and God;
it was never between you and them anyway.
We can only live such an inspired life if we have firm, unshakable belief in the goodness of God. A belief that in the end, God will make it right, reward the good and punish the evil. It’s a belief worth living.
Rev. Stephen Brown is lead pastor of Kenai New Life Assembly of God. Visit www.KenaiNewLife.org.