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One Mustard Seed

April 26th, 2010 · 3 Comments

“What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches” (Luke 13:18)

Elaine and I are going on a little camping trip. The park we’ll be staying at is pretty big and we won’t have access to a car so I figured I’d better bring our bicycles. The bicycles hang from hooks screwed into the garage ceiling. I know they’re there because that’s where I put them … four years ago.

Our bikes aren’t new, even by old people standards, but they’re decent, and as you’ve probably guessed, they’re not over-used. One of the reasons (not the best one) that they’ve been hanging from the garage ceiling for four years is that last time we had them out the back wheel on my bike developed a ‘wobble’. I figured that the wheel bearings were going bad so I stopped riding and hung it in the garage until I could get it repaired. Elaine’s bike worked fine, but it followed mine into the garage; we bought them together and rode them together so I’m guessing it just didn’t want to be alone.

Like I said, that was four years ago. Now that we ‘needed’ them again it was time for me to pull them off the ceiling and get my wheel wobble repaired. I checked the Yellow Pages for “Bicycle Repair”. It was early morning and my brain wasn’t really in forward gear so I started at the front and flipped my way toward the “B’s”. On my way to “Bicycle Repair” I had to navigate through the “A’s” which, I discovered, meant I had to travel through “Attorneys”.

Well, there are a lot of “Attorneys” so I flipped pretty fast … but they just kept coming. I flipped faster … they wouldn’t give up! The listings were endless; it was like trying to take roll call in the Chinese army! Finally I outlasted the “Attorneys”, leapfrogged over “Automobile Dealers”, blasted by “Bakers”, “Bathrooms” and “Beads”, and found “Bicycle Repair”.

One listing.

There was a single listing for bicycle repair. I know we don’t all ride bikes, but come on, one listing? Greenville and its immediate surrounds hold a good half-million people, and apparently all of us are counting on one bicycle repairman.

Being easily side-tracked I got to thinking about attorneys again. I thumbed back to “A” and began counting how many yellow pages were dedicated to “Attorneys”. I was amazed. Sixty pages. A greater metro area of 500,000 people, one bicycle repairman and sixty pages of attorneys.

What does that say about us?

Since the Yellow Pages are an exercise in pure supply and demand market forces (the only economic reason that many attorneys pay for that many ads is because they work) I’m assuming that we, Greenville’s populace, want it that way. And Greenville’s a pretty average place; if anything we’re more bicycle friendly and less of the litigious persuasion than most cities in the US. So my guess is that it isn’t just Greenville; the attorney to bicycle repairman ratio is most likely similar in phonebooks throughout the land.

I don’t have anything against attorneys or for bicycle repairmen per se. Each profession serves a vital role in our society. Attorneys fight for our rights when we’ve been wronged (or perceive we have), they fight to free the wrongly accused (and the rightly accused) and they keep honest people honest by spelling out in extended contracts what we used to agree on with a handshake. Bicycle repairman … well, they repair bicycles.

The whole ‘attorney’ industry is built on the premise that we’re going to harm, do wrong, or cheat one other. The whole ‘bicycle repairmen’ industry is built on the premise that sooner or later, if we own a bicycle, something on it is going to break.

Jesus never said anything about bicycle repair, but he said a lot about the reasons we hire attorneys.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12)

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned . Forgive and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:36-37)

“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ be ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37)

The teaching of Paul follows in the footsteps of his Master.

The commandments … are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.” (Romans 13:9-10)

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)

Changing the Yellow Pages’ “Attorneys” to “Bicycle Repairman” ratio is a pretty tall order. What can one person possibly do turn something this big around?

Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. Mustard is a tiny little seed – not of much consequence, even in the seed world. But if you plant it and nurture it, it can grow into a pretty big plant – big enough to give shade and shelter to others.

What I do, how I choose to treat others and how I react to wrongs committed against me may not seem to amount to much in the grand scheme of things. But that’s not what Jesus said. He said that even a tiny mustard seed, if you nurture it, could have a profound footprint in the garden.

The next time I feel my ‘feelings’ or my ‘rights’ have been violated, maybe I’ll keep in mind what Jesus said and just let it slide. Maybe I’ll get better at forgiving others and maybe others will see that and take a notion to do the same, and maybe someday the Yellow Page ratio will come down a little.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – I took our bikes down to the repairman for a tune-up. In and out in one day! That guy needs more business.

Have a good week, forgive someone … ride a bike if you’ve got one.

Tags: Justice · love

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dave S // Apr 26, 2010 at 6:16 am

    Dear Steve; I use google e-mail currently. It always runs a line ad on top of my inbox. Google in their nearly infinite computing, cross-referencing and consumer consuming power ran a line ad that they felt might appeal to me as I read your latest TPP weekly blog. It read, “Find a bicycle accident attourney in your area.”
    Laughable, sure; scary, uh huh; sad, very.
    I’m reminded of what the forest ranger in Arizona said after their catastrophic string of fire seasons., “When you let too much undergrowth spread uncut it provides the fuel for a firestorm. Add to that the proliferation of bugs that burrow into the trees and destroy their natural defenses and you provide the conditions for a holocaust. All it takes is onelightening strike.”
    Our society/civilization certainly mirrors this depiction. It is almost overwheming to consider the “Eve of Destruction” scope. However I can tend my own small neck of the woods. Today I’ll exterminate a few bugs, starting with G-mail. Please send your newsletter to my new e-mail address. Thanks Steve.
    Dave S.
    P.S. dgspillman@safe-mail.net

  • 2 Carol // Apr 26, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Excellent, excellent and thoughtful. As usual. I find that my outlook regarding lawyers and suing have become jaded. I find myself saying sometimes, “Now THAT’S a reason to sue…”
    This was an excellent reminder for me to apply Godly principles, even when we are trespassed against, and that’s a hard thing to do. Forgive and let it all go too?? Tall order – but one we all should strive for. Well done!!

  • 3 Wes Smith // Apr 28, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Dear Steve,

    This was one of your best articles. Maybe I like it so much because I bike, too, and my bike has been waiting in my basement for me all winter. As soon as I get my strength back from my Haiti illness I plan to jump on again. Six weeks ago I could barely walk across the room, and now I’m up to two miles a day . . . walking.

    Keep up the good work.

    L&P, Wes

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