Monday, June 24, 2013

Umbrella Morality

New Orleans Umbrellas -Floral Umbrella
A surprise spring monsoon (spring shower is a real misnomer) inspired one of my students to give an impromptu speech. I had assigned the class to give speeches the week before, and he was absent.  Undaunted, he took his inspiration from the rain.  Leaving class he had seen all the students getting drenched.  Walking past them carelessly were classmates with umbrellas.  He was appalled. 

Impassioned, he declared that to be a "real" college student included sharing your umbrella with others.  He preached for several minutes on the damage that the selfish refusal to share brought to the campus as a whole not to mention the discomfort and ill-health that sitting in wet clothes for the next two hours would bring to all of their fellow students individually.

When he was done one of the girls in the front row accused him of naivety.  Didn't being a "real" college student include more than just this one simple thing?  Did he really think that the moral fiber of the entire University would be brought low by this petty selfishness?

Stung, the young man explained. People who were so self-absorbed that they would allow their classmates to suffer needlessly, especially when the means to save them was at hand, were people who would do far worse evil.  In his opinion this casual kindness reveals character. 

Sitting in the back of the classroom evaluating speeches, I was impressed by his passion, his defense and his insight.  How are you at sharing your umbrella? I know that Americans are less likely to be totally drenched (when's the last time you walked for 10 minutes in the rain because you had no other choice?) but there are other small kindnesses that cost us little. 

What if next week, the elder who always picks up an aging sister, asks for volunteers for the month he's away on vacation?  She lives just down the road.

What if on Sunday you see a young mom, hands full of kids, bags and stuff for her Sunday school class struggling at the door? Will you put down your coffee and rush to help?

What if your entire character was judged on your willingness to look out for the good of others instead of your own good?  Not your willingness to stand up and be martyred for the cause of Christ, but your willingness to hold the door, drive an old lady, or share an umbrella.  Would you pass or fail?

Let me pose the problem from another perspective.  How do you feel about people who are kind to your kids? The people who teach, mentor, encourage, and bless your children mean everything to you, right?    Well, the people we bless or ignore are God's own beloved children.   

John puts it like this: "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?  Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth"  (1 John 3:17).

Let's try a paraphrase: But whoever has an umbrella and sees her brother getting wet and closes her heart against him, how does the love of God abide in her?  

Or this one: But whoever has a car and sees her sister is longing to go to worship and closes her heart against her, how does the love of God abide in her?

Real love is active. It does stuff.  God loved us so he did something - he sent Jesus to die for us. (1 John 4:9) So if we say we love God, and we refuse to share, we're loving with our words but not with our deeds.

I know that young man did not have Jesus's sacrifice on the cross in mind when he extorted his classmates to unselfishness, but he had a lesson for me.  Loving God is not something I say. It's something I do.  And most likely today I won't do it in some grand way.  I won't build a cathedral, go to prison for my Savior's name, or feed all the hungry in Africa.  But I could love him in a thousand small ways by loving his children.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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