To Receive, or Not to Receive

Life Notes—May 23, 2013 

“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.  Mark 10:15-16

I recently completed a virtual class on The Fundamentals of Servant Leadership.  Our deceptively wise class facilitator illustrated principles with stories from her life experiences.  One session she relayed an encounter with her late son, who had inherent challenges making independent living difficult.  On one visit, as she was leaving, her son wanted to give her five dollars and a few cans of food.  She knew her son needed both more than she did, but he insisted she accept his gifts.  She reluctantly accepted the money, but not the food.  She told us if she had it to do over she would take both gifts.  Not because she needed them, but because her son had a need to give them to her.  And she regrets not graciously accepting what he desired to give.

Our facilitator used this story to illustrate the relative power aspect in giving and receiving.  The giver, by offering something of value they currently have in their position, is in a relative power position over the recipient.  The receiver, by accepting the gift of another, must first accept the relatively lower power position in order to receive.  This observation hit me hard because I am a reluctant receiver of gifts.  I tell myself I have more than I need, so few people have something I need more than they.  Could it be that I am actually refusing to accept the ‘lower’ position of receiver? If so I miss the point, as well as the blessing. Because giving and receiving isn’t just about ‘things’ needed. It’s also about love. And about power. And about selflessness and selfishness.

To receive Christ’s gift of new life we must first accept the gift, knowing we could never earn it, and prostrate ourselves before our Lord and Savior, willingly accepting a relative power position lower than his.  When we refuse the gifts of others, or when we judge those gifts only in terms of material need, we may miss the essence of the gift.  Often we prefer the gifts we give to be anonymous.  For even to receive an acknowledgment is to receive something in return, thus a reduction in power relative to the other person.  But if we have given a gift and allowed the recipient to give nothing in return, what outlet do they have for returning or even acknowledging the blessing?  Wanting to bless others without being willing to be blessed in return is ultimately a selfish act.

Tom’s sermon downtown is “Boast in Our Suffering?” based on Romans 5:1-11.  Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall, with traditional worship at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch begins a new “Master Peace” sermon series at the west campus, where worship is at 9 and 11. His sermon title is “A Moment’s Peace,” based on Mark 1:32-39.

Come home to church this Sunday.  You may find something to receive…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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