Yesterday I was on a plane. My seat was 3A, and the plane was only four seats across. Shortly after I sat down, a family boarded who had an infant in a car seat and a young girl, I would guess six years old. They had seats 2C, 2D, 1B and 3B. The little girl did not want to sit alone, so after buckling the baby in the husband asked the man in 1A if he would switch him for 3B so he could sit with his daughter. Mister 1A responded, “Are you kidding? I paid too much for this seat to give it up.” After hearing that, and I realized that my seat was the other option, I offered my seat and sat next to mister 1A. I was amazed. Who would not help out so a little girl would not have to sit by herself on a plane? Shortly into the flight the attendant passed out our customs and immigration forms and he needed help filling his out, so he asked to borrow my pen and started asking me about the forms. My flesh screamed out, “figure it out yourself, jerk”. But then God said, “Do not return evil for evil” (Rom 12.21). In fact, He chastised me pretty good:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
– Rom 12.9-21
With Biblical principles built into our culture like the “Good Samaritan Law” and habits like holding doors for one another, and even newer management models whereby we empower our employees to make decisions and assess our productivity from the ground level up, we model and value – at least in part – the concept of putting one another above ourselves. But there can still be an air and spirit of superiority or inferiority when considering social status, occupation and background, or even our understood rights. That man had no obligation to give up his seat, and he did not do anything necessarily wrong for staying put, but everyone who heard what was going on was appalled at his heart and his actions.
But what about that ugly person. Paul said that it is easy to love the nice person, but our true reward comes in loving the unlovable. Jesus Himself died for us when we were His enemies, and we are to love the unlovable too.
These are commands. Being saved by grace through faith does not mean that God is not concerned with how we love and how we fulfill His commands. We should love in the measure by which we have been loved. We should forgive in the same way that we have been forgiven. He who has been forgiven much loves much. Let us remember our sin. Let us remember our ugliness. And let us remember that Christ died for us while we were his enemies, sinful and ugly. And let us put our pride aside and seek to love those who are unlovable and make great the name of Christ.
So far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.