PAY IT FORWARD!
In the midst of all the bad news headlines at summer’s end, here’s a feel-good story from St. Petersburg, Florida. At 7 a.m. last Wednesday a woman drove up to the Starbuck’s window and was prepared to place her order. And then on a whim, she told the cashier, “Make that two orders—I want to pay for the driver behind me.” She had no idea who that driver was. On the spur of the moment she simply decided to pay for both beverages, hers and the stranger’s. So when the driver behind her drove up to the window, the cashier announced: “The driver ahead of you just paid for your order.” Oh really? “Well then, let me pay for the driver behind me.” And so it went all morning. And all afternoon. And into the evening. Three hundred and seventy-eight drivers had their beverages paid for by the anonymous driver ahead of them. All because a stranger, who at 7 that morning practiced a quiet, no-fanfare act of random kindness. As it turned out, the 379th driver drove up to the window to order her beverage and was informed that it had already been paid for, “and would you like to pay it forward for the next customer.” “No,” she replied, “I only want to pay for my own drink” (which, of course, had already been paid for). Maybe she just didn’t get it. No matter, the chain of kindness was quietly broken. That last driver reminds me a lot of me—poor chain-breaker me. Two thousand years ago the Man on the middle cross paid it forward (and backward) for the entire human race. But when I drive to Calvary’s window, I have the temerity to announce I want to pay for it myself. It’s not about ingratitude. It’s about being in control. And so if you don’t mind, I’ll pay for my own drink. Poor chain-breaker me. Andrews University’s theme text for this new school year declares: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”—the words of Jesus on the banner over the circle outside (Matthew 22:37). After all He has paid it forward for every one of us. We owe Someone (besides this university) big time! James Denny was right: “I do not hesitate to say that the sense of debt to Christ is the most profound and pervasive of all emotions in the New Testament” (Death of Christ 158). So how shall we respond? Jesus answers: “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 39). Because you don’t pay back God’s love—you pay it forward. “For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20 NIV). Pay it forward. Love your neighbor. With random acts of thoughtful kindness. You’ll not only be the most popular person on campus. You’ll be the one God uses to start a brand new chain that may eventually stretch around the world. From here. From you. For Him. 379 and counting.