When I was turning 7, I was allowed to have a birthday party. It was my first birthday party ever. I was so excited. I remember sitting at our hutch and writing out my guest list. I had been to a party or two, seen some on television shows, but had little to no idea what mine would be like. I could only imagine how amazing it would be. I was so excited; words could not express the joy. When I was finished writing my guest list, my mom checked it over, asked if I had included everyone I wanted to be there, and then filled out the invitations so I could hand them out to everyone the next day at school.
The next day I went to school, entered my first grade classroom and proceeded to hand out invitations to everyone in the class…everyone, but one boy. It wasn’t a mistake. It was on purpose. I don’t recall now why I didn’t like him; I just didn’t. He didn’t get an invitation and he wouldn’t be at my party. Thank heavens.
Finally, the day arrived. The party had begun. Streamers, balloons, cakes, games, and friends; it was everything I dreamed it would be. I never gave thought to that boy I didn’t invite, until my mom called me over to the side. I had a phone call. Being 7, I didn’t get many phone calls. Someone must be wishing me a happy birthday. I picked up the receiver and said hello. On the other end was that young boy who had not been invited to the party. He did call to wish me a happy birthday…through tears, wondering also why he had not been invited. My heart was crushed. I apologized as many times as I could and told him to please come (lying, I told him I meant to invite him but forgot). I told him to come and have fun and not to worry about a gift. A few minutes later he came. I was glad he did, but furious with myself for treating him so poorly.
Jesus has a lot to say about the way we treat others. Probably his most famous instruction has been paraphrased by The Golden Rule. In fact the saying is: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets,” (Matthew 7:12). If you are an astute student of the Bible you will probably know that Jesus said the same about the first and second great commandments.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets,” (Matthew 22:37-40)
It is easy to love those people you like, but not so with those with whom you don’t get along. That takes effort. Those who rub you the wrong way, those who are needy, those who are different, those who hurt you time and time again. Those are the people, however that we are to invite to the party.
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just,” (Luke 14:12-14).
Throwing a party is often about us. It is to celebrate ourselves. It is to honor our birthday, our accomplishments, our being. Jesus said to make it about others. Make it about those with whom you would rather not associate. That’s loving your neighbor. That’s doing as you would wish they do to you. Yeah, loving the neighbor, especially the one we don’t get along with (the guy/gal that is so conservative or liberal that you want to pull your hair out when you’re around them, the one who is so needy and whiny; those people) is difficult. Jesus knew that. Boy! did He!
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect, (Matthew 5:46-48).
You know, I hate birthday parties. I don’t mind celebrating my birthday with my family, but that’s all I want to do. I’ve had one birthday party since I was 7. It was okay, but I would rather just spend it with my wife and kids. I don’t want to make a big deal about my birthday. I’ve blocked it from my social media accounts. I neither want nor need the attention. A private “happy birthday” is good enough for me. Perhaps I shouldn’t be that way, but I am. Perhaps I should throw a big birthday party and invite my enemies–of course, if they read this they will know that I don’t like them. I’m kidding; I like everyone. 😉
That being said. . .may we all seek to love our neighbors (even those with whom we don’t get along), treat them with kindness, goodness, and respect. May we do to them as we would have them do to us, and so fulfill the law.
I’d love to read your comments so please send them your way; even if it is a short note of agreement or disagreement. If this was a blessing, please feel free to like and/or share it on your social media account.
All Bible quotes are from the ESV published by Crossway Books. And no, today is not my birthday.