The past two times we have been out at a restaurant it has been extremely busy. Both places were packed and the line to the door. And in both places, the actions of people were the same – un-Christlike. How? Glad you asked.
The line would be to the door, people were exiting the ordering line with their food (or drinks and order number card in hand) and pitifully looking around for a place to sit, but there was none. Why? Not because all the tables were full of people who had placed their order or who were eating. No. Some of them were, but others were taken by people who had just walked in, leaving a portion of their party in the back of the line to order, and the other portion was holding a booth or table so they would have a place to sit and eat once they got their food. They had no concern for those who had food and actually needed a table. Their primary concern was that THEY would have a place to sit. They cared nothing for the needs of others.
It happened again to me today as I was running errands. They had closed a lane down and people were needing to get over, they gave plenty of notice, yet two people chose to speed past and get as far ahead as they could before they got to the end of the line. One cut someone off in order to switch lanes in time and the other had to slam on brakes in order to not plow through the barrier as he wasn’t so lucky as to find a sizable enough gap between cars to force his way in.
These instances occurring so close together got me thinking. Why do we do this? Because our needs/desires/time are more important to us than anyone. It is natural, and logical, for us to do what is in OUR best interest. But natural doesn’t excuse it from being evil.This is the way of the world. This is the way of America. We fight for OUR rights. We arm ourselves to protect OUR possessions. We look out for OUR benefits, caring not who we leave behind or who we leave standing without a table while we have one (even though we don’t yet need it). And to us, it makes sense. I look out for “me” and they can look out for “them”. Yet, it never fails to tick us off (if only just a little) when the other person gets the seat we actually need, or they cut in front of us in traffic.
Jesus taught, and exemplified for us, a different way to live.
“5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,
6 who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage.
7 Instead He emptied Himself
by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man
in His external form,
8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
We are told to have the same attitude as Jesus did. We should humbly consider the other person more important than ourselves. This is what love does. And honestly, if we’re not willing to give up a booth that we don’t immediately need for another who does need it, how could we say we would be obedient to the point of death as Jesus was? It’s not that we don’t consider our needs at all (Paul tells us to consider our own needs in Phil.2:4) but that we also look out for the needs of others while holding them as more important than ourselves.
So here’s a small challenge to live out the love of Jesus that we all can do sometime this week/weekend; here is profoundly simple way to die to self by esteeming others as more important than yourself – don’t save a booth. That’s right. Think of all those in line ahead of you who will actually have food before you and need a place to sit. Don’t think it will be easy. As I stood in line (both times), I too had the urge to grab the next vacated booth (even if it still had dirty dishes on it). I had to suppress the logic that if I didn’t look out for #1 then me and my family may not have a place to eat because of all the other selfish people in the restaurant. This logic was pulling me to be like them, to be selfish as opposed to selfless. And it’s hard. Don’t think I haven’t snagged a booth in the past. I have, many times; but that was the wrong choice. Really, it was a small choice to either live like the world or live like my LORD. So next time you’re in a packed restaurant, waiting in line to order food, consider it an opportunity to practically follow The Messiah and think, “To sit or not to sit, that is the question.” I know I will.