Good morning. I want to share something I learned from God’s classroom at the beach. Yesterday the Holy Spirit excitedly whispered in my ear, “Did you notice that?” And I replied, “Well, yes I did! It’s wonderful that personal smiled and said to me ‘Good morning!’ You don’t see much of that in the ordinary world.” I didn’t know that person. Didn’t know where they were from, what their politics were, what their social status was, and I didn’t even know what college football team they supported.
It was the norm to see people smiling, saying hello, good morning, good afternoon. and making conversation with strangers. One man pointed out to us that there was a small stingray near us and informed us that he also saw a couple of jellyfish. Normally you would not see this type of interaction between complete strangers. But in that moment, that location, there were no strangers. Simply people sharing that bond of being at the beach
We went to Lulu’s, a well known local eating establishment, last evening for seafood. You know you can’t go to the beach without eating seafood. We went early to avoid waiting in line. There were several people who had our same idea. There were lots of conversations going on. Smiles were everywhere and lots of laughing. It was then that I noticed 1 table, a family it appeared to be. There was not much talking….no smiles….looking almost miserable in a place full of smiling, friendly people. They definitely did not fit in with the rest of the crowd. I wondered if they had brought their own misery with them, instead of leaving it at home.
We were in an environment that was counter-cultural to much of normal living–the exception being that one family. Typically one doesn’t encounter this type of friendliness in the ordinary every-day world. People rarely look others in the eye, smile or engage in casual conversation. They tend to be more guarded, even suspicious of others. And here is the question that has rooted itself in my heart and mind: Why aren’t people as friendly in the ordinary world as they are at the beach?
Now mind you, that I’m not accusing these friendly beach-goers as being unfriendly the rest of the time. Hopefully they are, but if you examine the ordinary world you do not see kind of friendliness this happening. Many are like that family at Lulu’s that was a stark contrast to the rest of that environment. Cold, reserved, disconnected from the world that is around them.
Why? Perhaps it is suspicion that causes us to keep others at arm’s length. It could be fear–fear that the other person will somehow take advantage of them. What ever the reason, we tend to be more protective “out there in the real world”. And here is where there are many moments for the Kingdom Witness–to share a smile and be friendly because we are followers of Jesus.
Why were people so quick to flock to Jesus? I think it must have been His smile and friendly personality. I do not believe that Jesus looked anything like He is portrayed in “official” church art. He looks at times too sad, too mad, and way too weak. Would you really want to be in the presence of Sad or Mad or Pathetically Weak? Don’t think so! I believe Jesus looked more like artist Stephen Sawyer paints Him. Check him out on his website: www.art4god.com
In this suspicious, unkind and manipulative culture, we need to be more like Jesus. And it all begins with being kind and friendly. Being distant and rude requires little talent and no effort. It’s everywhere. But…a warm smile….a good morning….a timely thank you…holding a door open for another person….letting someone go ahead of you in the check-out lane…leaving your quarter in your shopping cart at Aldi’s….and best of all, listening to people and taking the time to know them without judging them.
What happened to being friendly? Nothing. Being friendly is still out there. Unfortunately it seems to be reserved for special places, like the beach. What if we, who claim to be followers of Jesus, would do what Jesus did when He walked on His Creation as one He created? Smile and be friendly. The times Jesus was mad was when He had to deal with the really religious people, or with people who simply wanted Jesus to entertain them.
One of the things I am absolutely enjoying in our new appointment is the setting: rural, small town Alabama. Friendliness and kindness are seen more often. Who among us wouldn’t agree that our culture needs to change–radically change. Change happens like measles spreads in schools–one person to another person. Would you really like to be more like Jesus? Do something that Jesus did? What if you decided that your part of the world is as friendly as folks at the beach? Perhaps what would happen would be that unfriendliness would look as out of place as that family at Lulu’s. It’s easy to make it happen–smile, be friendly, engage in conversation, listen, and get to know others. I leave you with Proverbs 15:30 (NLT)
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart;
good news makes for good health.
Now, if you will kindly excuse me, I need to leave. The bell has rung for class to begin. And The Teacher doesn’t like for us to be late. Might miss something, ya’ know. Now get out there, Followers of Jesus and be friendly!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Hi