When I was a server at Zio’s, sometimes a group of guests (from now on lovingly referred to as a “table”) would come in and sit at one of my tables, and for no particular reason, they were angry with me. They frowned, they were terse, and they wanted to criticize me.
With those tables, I would go out of my way to anticipate their needs; I would go above and beyond in figuring out what kind of dining experience they were after (intimate, hurried, leisurely, etc), and make it happen. I would be witty and charming and understanding and kind. And usually, usually, I could transform these bitter, hostile tables into happy, delighted guests.
I called such an accomplishment “flipping a table.” You know, ’cause I flipped them from grouchy, grumpy gusses to smiling, satisfied stanleys.
This last Sunday, Suzanne’s focus was on “Flipping the Script,” a reference to an NPR story that you can listen to here (if you don’t have an hour for the full audio show, check out the 8-minute video recreation of the first part of the story here). Go ahead and check one of those out; I’ll wait…
So my experience as a server “flipping tables” is an example of non-complementary behavior, a behavior that, as a server working for tips, came with a tangible reward (usually). It’s a much more daunting task to flip the script on an attempted robbery, offering your assailant a glass of wine. Would you be able to do it? Would I?
That kind of flipping the script is exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said,
“Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who abuse you.
If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also;
and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
Give to everyone who begs from you;
and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Now, when I mess up, when I’m angry or grumpy or I make bad relational decisions, it is my sincere hope that you will flip the script with me, that you’ll smile at my frown, that you’ll meet my curtness with joviality, that you’ll exchange my selfishness for your selflessness. That’s the way I hope you will treat me, so that’s how Jesus instructs me to treat you and everyone else.
When we refuse to return negative complementary behavior, we have a chance to change the world in real and meaningful ways – just like Jesus.