Have you ever received a really unusual, unexpected, useless, or tasteless gift?
A woman was browsing in a second-hand bookshop when she saw a book that she thought would be just what her husband needed to read, so she bought it for him. It was called How To Hug. You can imagine how pleased she was when that evening she saw him leafing through it with obvious interest. It was only then that she discovered her mistake. She had bought him volume 6 of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
What do you give the person who has everything? Recently, at Buckingham Palace, there was a display of 200 of the gifts that have been given to the Queen over the years. They include:-
- A pair of leather cowboy boot from Texas
- A wine cooler in the shape of a giant grasshopper from France
- A model oil rig from Canada
- A piece of the Berlin Wall from, well, Berlin
Not on display were the cans of tuna and pineapples, the two-and-a-half dozen eggs, or the sack of prawns the queen has been given. They found their way into the royal kitchen and onto the royal menu long ago.
Also not included in the exhibition were the dozens of live animals – including a canary from Germany, jaguars and sloths from Brazil, and an elephant from West Africa – that have been presented to the monarch. Many of these have been placed in the care of London Zoo.
We give and receive things all the time. We exchange gifts, cards, greetings, handshakes, hugs, names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, favours, rings, visits, and times.
It’s just the same with God and his people. In Romans 12:1 Paul urges his readers ‘in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.’
In his mercy, God has given so much to us. In gratitude, let us give our bodies (our selves) back to him.
We give back to God, in large measure, by giving to one another. And Paul spells out some of what this means in verses 9-21.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[a] Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[b] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[c]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.