the weblog of Alan Knox

Serving people even when they reject us

Posted by on May 25, 2011 in blog links, love, service | 10 comments

Serving people even when they reject us

My friends Paul and Laurel are in in Switzerland learning French. Why? Because they plan to move to a certain country in Africa where French is one of the predominant languages. While in Africa, they will be developing written languages (for the first time) for several spoken tribal languages. Then, they will help translate the Scriptures into those tribal languages.

Why? They are doing all this to disciple the people among those tribes. They do not view translation as an end, but as one of the means toward helping people grow in maturity in Jesus Christ.

However, it seems that God is continuing to teach them about serving him and loving others while they are in Switzerland. In one of their latest posts, “Rejecting a gift given out of love,” they tell the story of a friend who wanted to help a homeless man they found rooting around in the garbage can for scraps of food. Here is part of the story:

Our friend got up immediately and resolutely saying that he would buy this man a meal.  Within a few minutes, our friend came back and just quietly placed the bag of food at the man’s feet, smiled, and walked on.  To all of our shock, the homeless man grunted and hastily grabbed the bag of food and angrily slammed it into the trash can he had just been eating out of.  We were speechless.

But, they also learned something very important through this:

We were all immediately struck with the reality that this is how the Lord feels when people reject His gift given out of His great love for us… Another challenge we took away from this is to persevere in loving and serving people even when rejected because that is what Jesus did.

This is a difficult lesson to learn. We all want to be accepted, and we want people to be appreciative when we love them.

But, we should never allow people’s responses (or lack of responses) to be a motivation or a hindrance to our service. The only service that honors God is one that is motivated by a love for him and others and that is empowered by the Holy Spirit.


10 Comments

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  1. 5-25-2011

    SO GOOD! And so true! If Jesus had only served those who responded the “right” way then not many would have had his touch after all. I know within myself I sometimes have a debate of whether I reach out to someone or not based on perception of their response, etc but I always try to come back to the place of Jesus and his heart. Everyone has a story and they respond from that story and my only responsibility when Jesus calls me to serve is to obey him in it and trust that person and their response, or lack thereof, to him. He knows their story and I do not. And truthfully I don’t need to know their story to serve them and extend kindness and love to them. Thanks for sharing this lesson!

  2. 5-25-2011

    Alan,

    “Rejecting a gift given out of love”.

    How was the man to know that their motive was love?

    One of the greatest acts of love is to give the gift of friendship to such a person, acknowledging them as equals and fellow travelers in this life, before offering material gifts. Sitting in the dust, as it were.

    Being taught that was a rude awakening for me.

  3. 5-25-2011

    Beth,

    Yes, Jesus was often rejected. He still is. I’m glad he doesn’t give up on us.

    Aussie John,

    You’re right. The homeless man in the story does not know that these people love him. Hopefully, they will not let his rejection deter them, but will continue to demonstrate the love of God until he does know.

    -Alan

  4. 5-26-2011

    Beautiful!
    There is a beggar in our town that is such a joy to give to. Though he asks for money, when we come from the store with a whole fresh meal for him, he beams in thanksgiving. Sometimes it’s hard to know who to give what, and we might feeling like we’re “spinning our wheels” trying to find out how to help who; but God already knows our needs and the perfect gifts to give us, and still often gets rejected!

  5. 5-26-2011

    good word, alan. if we serve jesus not those in need, then their response doesn’t matter, and we already know his!

  6. 5-26-2011

    Esther,

    Thank you for serving him in the name of Christ.

    Mark,

    Yes. That’s a very good way to put it!

    -Alan

  7. 5-28-2011

    Aussi John,
    It’s challenging to communicate the whole picture in one short blog post. There’s always more to the story, isn’t there? But I think it’s significant to add that this was not the first time that our friend had reached out to this man. Our friend starting out by extending friendship to this man and was met with some very vulgar and shocking reactions that don’t need to be described. So suffice it to say that I don’t think this man is very clear in his head. This is why the meal was quietly placed at his feet. Attempts at discussion had not been successful and we aren’t even sure if we have a language in common with this man. So I think this is what we are limited to given the circumstances.

    Also, I wonder what our actions could have communicated other than a motive of love? How could we communicate love to him without words if not by our actions? In my mind, giving a total stranger a meal communicates love and selflessness.

  8. 5-28-2011

    We can forget the soul’s need for respect and dignity can be stronger than the bodies need for food, shelter, and clothing. This is very often missing in how we attempt to “meet needs.” While we all have protectiveness about our egos, the poor, especially, can be highly sensitive to what they consider affronts and can be determined to maintain a level of dignity in certain areas we overlook.

    Some areas where specific mis-connects can occur include when we take actions that send the message that we are better than they are, that our time is more important, that our “service” or “offering” should be humbly accepted while we remain removed from actually touching or interacting with the person.

    Any time we show–how ever well intentioned–disrespect for them or fail in any way to treat them as a person deserving of respect, we stand a good chance of doing more harm to their soul than good to their body. Whenever we disrespect their own capability to provide for themselves, or intrude into their lives unbidden and imperiously, we stand a chance of wounding and not healing, of pushing them farther away from the God we represent.

    The poor are people. It isn’t even that we should approach them the same way we might approach a highly respected (wealthy, accomplished, powerful) person. It isn’t that they need to be “elevated” to our high and noble station, and it isn’t that we need to lower our selves to their level; but rather, that we need to recognize that we are blessed to be on the same level as they, and they, us. Rub away the temporary surface and there are no differences. Only Jesus had to lower Himself to our level. We can hope to have them as a friend, to have them come alongside us in our own needs and to reciprocate, mutually helping one another.

  9. 5-28-2011

    Ouch. I just realized my post on respect and dignity for the poor might be taken as commentary on the specific example shared about Paul and Laurel’s friend. I should have been clear that reading their story just prompted me to remember experiences and to consider ministry to the poor in general.

    My wife and I have moved into the inner city to minister there, and I’ve learned to feel what they felt and to see from their perspective. For an eighteen month period, we were ourselves only making $800/month and lived in a gang infested area of Durham (near Alston on Holloway). Along with neighbors and friends, I’ve felt the embarrassment of being herded like cattle to get food from a pantry or a meal at the shelter and of waiting on day work benches from 6 AM to noon hoping we would get picked to fill in for absent sanitation workers and odd jobs.

  10. 5-29-2011

    Laurel,

    Thank you for letting us know more of the story. I was very encouraged by the small part that you wrote before, and now it’s even more encouraging.

    Art,

    Thanks for adding to the discussion! When considering how to show love and concern for the poor, it’s always good to hear from people who have lived in poverty.

    -Alan