Giving The Benefit Of Love
by Stephanie Olson, Set Me Free Ministries Co-founder
I have noticed lately that it is very difficult to give people the benefit of the doubt. Isn’t it? Have you ever been in a situation where your first reaction is to get annoyed at a person who you believe has wronged you in some way? I know I can’t be alone in this one.
Just recently, I had to take my dog, Coco, to the vet. She is an elderly black lab, and we are in that horrible time of her life when we know she doesn't have much longer in this world. The other morning when she woke up, she couldn’t walk. She would attempt to walk but would just fall over on her side. It was horrible to watch, and it appeared to me that it was a neurological issue as opposed to an injury.
It had been a rough weekend to begin with. My husband was out of town, and the kids and I were preparing for the first day of school. It had been an extremely stressful week, and having a sick dog was wearing on my already sensitive frame of mind.
Coco is a heavy dog, so when I took her to the vet, I parked as close to the door as possible. She couldn’t walk, and I couldn’t carry her the entire way. I found a spot close, but admittedly, I parked close to the parking line on the driver’s side. There was a car on either side of me, and I wasn’t that close to either vehicle, so I stayed there.
When we were finished with the vet appointment, I made two trips to the car. First, I took Coco to the car before returning to the office to settle up the bill with the doctor. While walking to the car the second time, I was on the phone explaining to my husband what the vet had said. Coco's problem was, in fact, neurological. When I reached my car, I noticed a woman putting items in her car. I saw that her open door was touching my car, door-ding style.
I said nothing to her. Frankly, I had so much on my mind I didn’t even care. I was still talking to my husband about our dog when she shut her door and moved to the back of her car to put additional things in the trunk. I got into my car when out of the blue she started screeching at me. This woman had kids in her car, but the language that came out her mouth would embarrass any devoted pirate.
Now, let me say, I was in my car, but I was shaking at this point. I sized her up and thought, “Girl, you are lucky I don’t drink anymore, because I could take you.” I began to leave, and then she said something that made me stop in my tracks. I am ashamed to say that I stopped, rolled down my window, and let her know that I didn’t need her help on my already bad day and that I thought she had excellent parenting skills. Please read that sentence with the sarcasm that it was peppered with. She was still yelling at me as I drove off.
When I left that situation, I was furious! I had been wronged. I was having a bad day, and I didn’t need some crazy woman yelling at me!
But the next morning as I was spending time with the Lord, the conviction of the Holy Spirit was gentle, yet strong. The Holy Spirit spoke in my spirit saying, “What do you think made her react like that? Was it really because your car was a little too close, or was it something else? Did she need to see the love of Christ at that very moment? Could you have spoken words of love and apology to her instead of correction and frustration?” Ouch!
I couldn’t walk away from that thought. What must she have been experiencing that day to react like that? True, some people are simply crazy, but let’s face it, most of us aren’t. When we are going through the ringer, it doesn’t always take much for us to react. I started looking at people, random strangers, thinking, “What’s their story? Do they need to know how much Jesus loves them today?”
1 Peter 1:22 tells us we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ “fervently with a pure heart.” Okay, some of you are thinking, but she wasn’t necessarily a sister in Christ. True, but Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:43-48, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
That is a tall order, but when we are called to be Ambassadors of Christ, we must show love. I have determined to look at things a little differently before I lose my cool over an annoyance by a person. I’m going to ask myself, “What might this person have gone through? Did they lose a loved one? Did they recently lose a job? Did they recently go bankrupt? Perhaps they just received the news they have cancer or life for them has changed in an instant. Is it possible that they just need to hear that they are loved by a God beyond measure?”
Who knows. I do know this, however:
“…though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing…Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:2-8)
Perhaps we can all try to give the benefit of love.