DOING FOR OTHERS

Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! [Luke 6:31 (MSG)]

Great Blue HeronYears ago I took a short class in genealogy research. One of the first things told to us was that we were obligated to share any information we discovered with the rest of the genealogy community. Genealogy research depends on the results of other people’s searches of sources like birth and death records, cemeteries, census results and newspapers. We simply owe it to those who led us to our findings to share our knowledge with those who follow in our footsteps. I thought of that class as I wrote yesterday’s devotion about offering thanks.

A few years ago I wouldn’t have been any use at all to those people we helped at the swamp. I knew next to nothing about any of the birds in southwest Florida or where to find them. I’m still a rookie birder and most of my avian knowledge is limited to the shore and wading birds. Nevertheless, thanks to the people who generously shared their knowledge with me—who so willingly pointed out birds, identified species, answered my questions, and explained their behavior—I can now help others who are even less knowledgeable than am I. As for that off-the beaten-track conservation area, the only reason we knew about it is that someone kindly shared his knowledge of it with us.

Both the genealogy information and bird lore I’ve received were given to me gratis. There was no quid pro quo—I gave nothing (but my thanks) in exchange for what was given me. It was shared out of kindness with no expectation of repayment—a little like God’s grace. We can never pay the deeper debt we owe to God for all of His goodness. Any attempt to repay Him is a contradiction of grace because grace wouldn’t be grace if it could be repaid. Just because it can’t be repaid, however, doesn’t mean it can’t be spread around. The Golden Rule tells us to do to others as we would have done to us and then I think of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. He humbled himself to serve them and told the disciples that they must do for others what He had done for them. We must do for others that which has been freely done for us. Whether it is the giving of knowledge, service, skill, assistance, forgiveness or love, the good things that have been done for us are not ours to keep—they are ours to share. When doors are opened for us (both literally and figuratively), we are obligated to open doors for others.

Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. … In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. [Matthew 5:14,48 (MSG)]

Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do.”  [John 13:12-14 (MSG)]

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