The place was Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky, but it can happen anywhere. What you’re looking at is a snapshot of a receipt for a meal of Chinese food. The meal price totaled $64.74. The tip was $1000.00. That works out to be a 1540% gratuity! The magnanimous tip was given by a generous person who was attempting to offset at least one small wave of the financial tsunami that COVID-19 has unleashed on folks who work in the foodservice industry.
Five hundred years before Jesus was born, someone asked Confucius: “Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” Confucius answered: “Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”
Some four hundred years before Christ, a popular philosopher in Athens commanded a crowd. He taught his listeners: “Whatever angers you when you suffer at the hands of others, do not do to others.”
And about three hundred years before Christ, the Stoics influenced many with their system of logic and their views on the natural world. The Stoics popularized this teaching: “What you do not want to be done to you, do not do to anyone else.”
So let’s move on in history. Roughly two hundred years before Christ, the author of The Book of Tobit – which is part of the Apocrypha – penned this particularly pithy version of the same mantra: “What thou thyself hatest, to no man do.”
I suppose that each of those life maxims contains some merit. But do you notice a common denominator? Each one is negative. All four statements remind us what we’re not supposed to do.
I don’t know about you, but I am so glad that Jesus didn’t parrot any one of these! Instead, in Matthew 7:12, Christ issued us a positive instruction: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” What my grammar school teachers used to call “the golden rule” is our passionate call to active and selfless and generous kindness.
It is radical.
You and I are called to consistently exhibit a gentle influence for the good of our neighbor, an influence which ripples on and on – even after we are gone. We may not become commanding leaders, or achieve notoriety because of our many achievements. We may not start a successful business enterprise, or make a ton of money. We may not make the news or hold a key public office. We may never write a bestseller, or earn a Wikipedia page. But our kindness should run deep and wide, and our kindness should be lavished liberally on our fellow human beings. You and I should be epic, but we should be epic in love.
It is far-reaching and all-encompassing.
Out of a love for the gospel which has rescued us, we are to overcome issues of disunity and division, by grace. The disunity and division are natural, but you and I have been saved by the supernatural and supranatural love of God. That magnanimous love lives in us, and that love expresses itself in kindness toward our fellow strugglers and sojourners. I don’t have to tell you that the fears of our neighbors are amped up right now. As I write, at our local hardware stores, they’re buying chains and padlocks to protect their property should mass chaos ensue. We can speak hope into that trepidation, by the power of the Holy Spirit!
It is countercultural.
If we want to bear lasting spiritual fruit in crazy times like these, we must “grasp and believe” (Martin Luther) that God is our Father. And that we are God’s children. These basic truths we must repeat to ourselves over and over again! Only the truth can free us from placing all of our trust in this world – or in its worldly accolades. The world is not our audience, and we play for an audience of One. Even if this diabolic microbe which is ravaging our planet removes from my life every sense of comfort and security, I will find that Christ is enough. And, when I finally get that straight, I can love as I’ve been loved.
This is the time for such love, friends. As you and I notice others who are struggling in the throes of this monstrous coronavirus pandemic – the dreadful tentacles of which are many – may we give ourselves away! The moment for simple yet extravagant kindness is upon us.