Just as predicted, “the love of many is growing cold,” and it’s getting icier and harder every day (for me at least) to keep up the good attitude, generous spirit and kind heartedness so necessary for a happy and blessed life. Here’s an Old Testament teaching I bumped into (hard) this morning in my daily reading that helped me get back in the saddle.
“If you encounter your enemy’s stray ox or donkey, you must return it to him.” Exodus 23:4
The first thing I noticed is that we are not talking about some stranger who lives far away. This is someone we know, probably from the neighborhood and his donkey in wandering down our street. Could be someone we grew up with, but we are no longer on speaking terms. Maybe he lied or gossiped about us and the relationship is broken beyond repair. Or perhaps it’s a neighbor who stole something from you, or borrowed your donkey, broke his leg, and never paid you back.
And here comes his donkey walking down our street, lost and alone. What am I supposed to do?
- Watch and think to myself, “Well, well, he’s finally getting what he deserves. Looks like God is finally punishing him for causing me so much trouble.
- Go home and pray, “O God, please help this man find his donkey.” Then say to myself (and my wife), “What a great and godly person I am!”
- Stand there thinking, “All he has to do is come and ask forgiveness for speaking badly against me. I’ll be happy to help him find his donkey if he would come pay me back what he took.”
Maybe, and more often than I’d like to admit, any one of these can be my first reaction. But whatever I feel, or think, I’m supposed to get up and bring the donkey back to the jackass, I mean, you know what I mean.
Why would I do that? Why bring my enemies mule back to him? Because I’m a naïve fool, ignorant and don’t understand that this person hurt me? Or perhaps by bringing his donkey back I can show him how (self) righteous I am, “even though he hurt me!?”
I’ll leave you to choose your own answer. But before you do, consider this next kicker.
“If you see the donkey of one who hates you fallen under its load, do not leave it there; you must help him with it.” Exodus 23:5
Now what do I do?
- Stand there and think, “O, I can’t wait to tell everyone how he treats his donkey. After he said all those terrible things he did, I need to tell everyone what kind of a person he is who makes his donkey suffer so.
- Say to my wife (she puts up with a lot), “O the poor donkey, I really feel bad for him, and even though that wicked owner caused me so much trouble, I still have compassion for the poor thing,” as I brush my fingernails over my pumped up chest?
Perhaps, but what am what am I supposed to do? This time it’s a little more complicated. Obviously, I’m supposed to help the donkey who has fallen under the heavy load. And what about my “enemy?” Am I to assume he wants my help? Can I avoid him and just help the donkey? Looks clear to me that I’m going to have to get up (again) and help him pick up his … we’ll call him a donkey this time … and carry some of the load. And not just for the poor donkey. Here I’m supposed to help this guy who hates me (read the verse) get his stuff home, or to market or wherever (remind anyone of “go the extra mile?”).
Why would we do that? Only one reason comes to my mind. Because we believe that we can overcome evil with good, and we are not going to let evil overcome us.
It means that we will not stop loving just because everyone else is.
And that is the story of the God of Israel and His Messiah. He did not stop caring when those closest to him, the Jewish people who he loves so much, turned against him. And he still carries our burdens (wherever we may go) because He believes in the power of love to overcome evil.
Caring is an action we take because we believe in the One who cares.
So let’s cool down and not let the jerks get to us. Have a blessed day, every day!