Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Paper Plate People

On special occasions, I use my fine china to serve dinner to friends and family. It is a Lenox pattern that has a cream background with black and gold bands around the edge, making it particularly delicate. Because of the gold edge, I have to hand-wash the china and dry it so as not to damage the gold edge. My china is special to me; therefore, I treat it carefully.

Casual dinners with friends and family are typically not fine china occasions. In fact, I have been known to open a pack of paper plates and offer them as the resting place for a hamburger or hot dog. Although paper plates are often flimsy and require several to support a meaty burger, they are cheap and disposable and it doesn’t matter if you need two or three to make it through a meal. Once we finish eating, the paper plate is not washed, nor is it even cleaned off a bit. It is immediately thrown in the garbage and not given another thought.

This all begs the question of how you and I treat the people in our lives. Are they china people with whom we take great care; treating them as special and valuable? Or do we treat those in our lives as if they are paper plate people—cheap, flimsy, and disposable?

I recall a time when it was made painfully evident to me that I was treating others as paper plate people. In the 1990s, I worked at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. My job as a research coordinator required that I see research study patients in the clinic, but also interact with the laboratory staff in the basic science section of the university. One day, when I was talking with one of the PhDs in the lab, she looked at me and said, “I’m not sure what makes you feel like you are better than those of us in the lab, but you are not! You don’t need to treat us like we are second-class citizens.”

At first, I was mad. How dare she accuse me of being a snob? Then my anger turned to dismay and hurt. I had no idea that I was coming across like that. The lab personnel perceived that I was treating them like paper plate people. It was such a huge ‘A-ha’ moment for me. Regardless of what I felt, the perception of those around me was what mattered in this case. My actions said to the lab staff that I thought I was better than them and they were not important. I apologized profusely and promised to be more aware of my actions.

Who, in your sphere of influence, are you treating like a paper plate person? Who do you pass every day who feels in their heart like a paper plate person? Is it a teenager who feels like they never do anything right? What about a 20-something who perceives that Christians judge them? Is it a divorced person whose entire world has changed? Could it be the man or woman who spent time in jail for a crime but is now free and seeking to start over? Does your spouse feel like a paper plate person in their own home?

In John 13:34-35 (NLT), Jesus was clear that the world would know we belong to Him by the love that we live out in our lives:

“So now I am giving you a new commandment; Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

No matter who He was around, Jesus never treated anyone like a paper plate person. I hope you will join me in asking the Lord to show you those in your life who feel like paper plate people. When he does, let’s show them the love and compassion of Jesus.

Copyright © Leah Adams, used with permission.

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