"God’s people should be bighearted and courteous." (Titus 3:2b)
I was praying while I was reading Titus 3 and these words jumped off the page at me. They are really there as part of a description of what loving Christians should be like in a world that doesn't know Jesus. Paul desperately wants us to know how to survive in this world when we are not of this world. And we are failing.
At church several months ago, we watched this video of several of our members asking people on the streets to describe what they think of when they hear the word "Christian" in just one word. The word they used most often? Hypocrite. Dictionary.com defines it this way- "a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs."
The world at large thinks that we are pretending. We are doing a terrible job, in general, of representing Jesus when we leave the four church walls. How can anyone believe that we actually "love our neighbors" as the Bible calls us to do in Mark 12:31 when we spend our days fighting with them or when we are anything but loving on social media with anyone who doesn't agree with us? Why should they believe that we are offering extravagant love to the world as described in Ephesians 5:1-2 when we aren't even giving basic love to our own spouses and children?
So bighearted and courteous? We can't manage loving as a people group. How are we going to do "bighearted?"
I'm sure that you saw this coming considering all we've talked about throughout this week, but it starts at home. It starts with your own family, your own spouse, your own children, the in-laws, the extended family. Begin by showing them that you love them more than you love yourself and that their needs are more important than your own.
I honestly hate to even write this story out, but it's screaming "example" to me right now. As I sat down to write this final post for the book of Titus, I kept being interrupted.
"Mommy! Look at Fuzzy!"
"Can we go outside?"
"Can I see if my friends can play?"
"I can't find my black bathing suit anywhere! Do you know where it is?"
I hit my wit's end. Though I just finished studying Ecclesiastes 9 today where Solomon gives great reasons why yelling and screaming "like a fool" (his words, not mine) are not a good plan, I went ahead and snapped at my children anyway. I mean seriously, can't they see that I am trying to share Jesus with the twenty people that my blog tells me actually click on my link? Or maybe it's just my mom clicking a bunch of times, who knows?
So it's ironic to me that now that I am actually getting a quiet moment (Picture me ridiculously telling my children to stay in their rooms to play or go outside but don't interrupt me unless you are injured), I am supposed to be writing about being "bighearted and courteous." I am neither of those things. Where's the verses on being dramatic and slightly self-centered? I can bang out a post on those. Need to hear my thoughts on why it's important for a husband to cook dinner over the weekend? Sign me up. I have great arguments. Want to hear why the letter "C" needs to either leave the English language or adopt the sound for "CH?" Because I have an amazing argument for that one too- I have a serious passion for it. Really.
Bighearted and courteous? No, just no. But this is where Jesus is leading me and so this is where I will go. We'll start with being courteous since I think I can figure that one out faster than "bighearted."
I'm a word girl so the place I like to start when I'm trying to figure something out is the dictionary. And dictionary.com defines courteous like this- "having or showing good manners; polite." Being courteous starts with the little things. Saying please and thank you, apologizing when you're wrong (yeah, yeah, I'll go tell them I'm sorry when I'm done with this post), holding the door for each other, and offering to pick something up at the store when you're there. Those are some of the good manners described in that definition.
But it's more than that too. It's about thinking of the other person (or people as the case may be) before you think about yourself each and every time. It's about taking a deep breath and thinking about what you're about to say rather than just spewing word vomit all over your family member. You wouldn't do it in public (or maybe some would, but you shouldn't), so don't do it at home. Embrace the word "polite" from the definition at home too.
So how can I show my kids or my husband that I love them today? Unfortunately, at my house, this one is easily answered but hard to execute. One of the easiest ways for me to be courteous to my kids right now and show them that they are important to me is to share my tater tots. I don't like sharing my tater tots. I like eating my tater tots. In fact, I am secretly eating tater tots right now while my kids hide from their drama queen mom in their rooms. And I am feeling a little guilty about that...so let's look at "bighearted."
Sadly, when I think of "bighearted" my first thoughts ALSO go to sharing my tater tots with my kids because the dictionary says that "bighearted" is all about being "generous and kind." Sigh. I'll be right back...I really hope that sharing those earned me some good mom points, but I'm betting it won't be a part of their thank you speeches at graduation and it definitely won't be brought up on their wedding days.
Let's not just talk about the problem with no real solutions. I'm going to give you a list of ideas to use to be bighearted and courteous in your home and another to start demonstrating it in your community. It's my prayer that we can move forward from here and change that one describing word for Christians from "hypocrite" to "loving." Here's my list of ideas. It is not exhaustive. I would love to hear any that you have as well if you want to add your thoughts in the comments below.
1. For your spouse: Go on a date, make their favorite meal, help with a chore that is normally theirs, ask them outright if you can make their day better somehow, work on something that your spouse stuck on a list of things that he/she would like to get done but hasn't, if they're into gifts then buy them something, write them a nice letter, pray for them and with them.
2. For your children: Take each of them on their own date, buy them something fun, jump on the trampoline together, go swimming together, play tag or hide and seek outside, have a Nerf battle, play a board game together, play a video game together, listen when they talk to you, draw together, color together, teach them to bake or cook something, sit with them and answer questions kindly when helping with homework, read a book together, read the Bible together.
3. Community: Make a meal for a new mom, give some groceries to a family that just lost a job, bring cookies to the new neighbor, talk to your neighbors and get to know them, help them with outdoor chores (mowing the lawn, weeding flower beds, shoveling sidewalks, feeding chickens), donate food to a food bank, volunteer at church, volunteer at a nonprofit in your area, babysit.
I just want to close by saying that it is my sincere prayer that this post was valuable to you somehow today, that you heard Jesus speak to your heart somewhere amongst the thousand or so words that are here. Honestly, I struggled with this one as I was writing it a week early in preparation for not being around to write it exactly a week from now when it appears on my blog. I'm feeling crunched for time, but still long to share Jesus with whoever visits this blog. So if it feels a little disjointed, please know that I am sorry for that and am so thankful that Jesus can even use my scattered mess to speak love to others. Remember, don't just be blessed today. Be a blessing to someone else too.