(Note: A downloadable PDF copy of this lesson is available on the last page.)
It’s remarkable how differently people respond to the same set of circumstances. A supervisor of volunteer summer workers shared an experience that illustrates what I mean.
He placed two couples on an island populated with disadvantaged people. Each couple was to take a specified area and establish a recreational program for the children and a Bible study program for the adults. When the supervisor visited the island two weeks later to see how the work was progressing, he found the first couple disgusted, sullen, and depressed.
“We hate this place,” they said.
“The children are wild, unmanageable. They swear and have lice in their hair. The adults are unfriendly. They come to our meetings an hour late or not at all. Most of them sleep through the meeting.
We hate the taste of the water and can’t stand living in this dump. We want out.”
Then the supervisor visited the second couple. When they opened the door, he was greeted warmly by two people whose faces were covered with soot.
“Come on in,” they said.
“Our oil stove just exploded. A few minutes ago everything was clean, and then: ‘BANG!’
Look at this mess, come on, help us clean it up.”
As they worked on the cleanup job, this couple went on to describe their experience.
“We found out that when we tried to teach these people about love and responsibility and cleanliness, they didn’t know what we were talking about. The kids are wild, and the adults won’t cooperate, so we got mad at them. We stayed away from them for a few days and just tried to justify our own nasty attitudes.
Then, it dawned on us that we weren’t loving and responsible either—just clean. We recalled our studies about Jesus:
He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him (John 1:11).
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
We thanked God for showing us what we were like, and asked Him to forgive us and give us a loving, responsible spirit. He did, and what a change. Now, we love it here. What a challenge.” Then, the husband said:
“Hey, do you want to go fishing? A week ago, I spotted some men getting into a boat, so I jumped in, too, and asked to go along. They didn’t like it, but before the day was over, they quit ignoring me. Now, they even invite me to go along and have taught me how to filet the fish, and have showed me where the fishing holes are. I think my new attitude made the difference.
The kids still don’t want our program, and the adults ignore our Bible studies, but we keep at it and we love it.”
Two couples—living in the same place with the same people. What sharply contrasting reactions.