It was not the greatest hotel. Stains on the furniture, elevator buttons that did not work, and an odd, indistinguishable smell in the hallways were enough to convince Tracie we would be staying elsewhere on our next trip to Houston. For me, I tend to brush off such things when the price is discounted deeply enough and they give me a free hot breakfast.
Ah, yes. Breakfast. Let’s talk about the breakfast.
The potatoes were gone. The sparse smattering of eggs was dry and tasteless. “Hot” might qualify as false advertising. Even to the eye, it was clear the juice was watered down. It might have been the worst meal I’ve ever been served that did not make me physically ill.
But my story only starts here.
After seeing one disappointed face after another open the chafing dish, I felt compelled to bring the subject of breakfast up with the staff. “Oh, the breakfast lady handles that,” was all the young woman behind the counter could manage to offer by way of apology.
“Well, obviously she doesn’t handle that,” I wanted to say. But even more, I wanted to say what generally comes to my mind in such situations: “Why can’t anyone in the service industry actually take responsibility anymore?”
Bulletin: You don’t have to be personally responsible for a bad circumstance to offer an apology. You just have to care about your customers and about the company for which you work.
Let’s deal with those two points separately.
Caring about customers — which is to say, caring about people — means expressing some level of dismay when their lives are in disarray. When blame-shifting is the first response to difficulty, dissatisfaction or suffering, the one in trouble is likely to think the responder doesn’t care about them. In the situation to which I refer here, and many others like it, clearly that impression is 100 percent accurate — and also 100 percent not a big deal. I just considered myself thankful to be checking out that day instead of checking in, and then proceeded to my car.
But when you are talking about actual relationships — say, relationships in the church — it is a very different story. If someone comes to me with a difficulty, particularly a difficulty with me, I need to give that person an open-minded hearing. If I immediately jump to, “That’s not right,” followed quickly if necessary by, “That’s not my fault,” I am almost guaranteed to worsen our relationship. Perhaps even worse than that, I could miss an opportunity to grow out of a flaw in my character and behavior.
The “true companion” of Paul, and of the Lord, was the one who was willing to be a go-between in the dispute between two women of the church in Philippi (Philippians 4:2-3). That “true companion” might not always seem to have the “spirit of gentleness” Paul required in Galatians 6:1. But even if his attitude was less than perfect, that doesn’t mean his words of correction and guidance are worthless. If the biggest hypocrite in the church offers me a word of wisdom that can help me be more like Jesus in my thoughts and behavior, why wouldn’t I take advantage of that? A feeling of connection to brothers and sisters in Christ should make this sort of interaction easy and (relatively) painless.
That brings us to the second point. The church is fraught with members who refuse to be held accountable for anything. Their apathy is the fault of the inadequate leadership. Their ignorance is the fault of the shallow preacher. Their children’s apostasy is the fault of the poor Bible class curriculum and/or teachers. And the dwindling numbers in attendance and contribution are always problems laid at others’ doorstep. “Somebody really ought to do something,” they will say to one another over Sunday lunch. “That’s the problem with this church — no one is willing to step up.” But they themselves, naturally, are excused.
Such ones fall into one (or both) of two categories — slackers and malcontents. They excuse themselves from every possible obligation, and whine their way through the ones that are impossible to skip. As with a discontented or unmotivated hotel employee, they do not see themselves as part of the whole. Their service, such as it is, is a job. A burden. Something to be slogged through if necessary, avoided if possible. And never, ever enjoyed. How such ones in the church think they can obey the clear command of Philippians 4:4 is beyond me.
What message are you sending about the Lord’s church with your attitude? Do you make the Lord’s kingdom a better place for your fellow citizens, and an attractive opportunity for outsiders? Think about it.