I usually cringe at generalizations.
You know, stereotypes; lumping an entire group of people into a box.
Like “The _______ (nationality) are so ________ (bad character trait).” or “Those ___________ (teenagers, sports participants, drama club members) all are so ____________ (strange habit or behavior).”
Now, sometimes the generalization makes complete sense. Perhaps many of the people in that group exhibit that behavior. But I doubt all of them do. So, I try to be careful not to lump them together.
However, sometimes in the lumping, a compliment is paid.
A few weeks ago I was at my office-away-from-home. It is a newly remodeled McDonald’s in the area where our high school son practices baseball. Since he is home schooled, a freshman and can’t drive alone yet, I must take him. There is only one varsity baseball program in the state so we must cross a few county lines in order to get to his practice.
Once there, it isn’t advantageous for me to come home due to the distance. So, I settle myself into a booth and sip a coffee by the fireplace (yes- this Mickey D’s has a beautiful fireplace, comfy retro chairs and a large flat-screen TV). I try to get a little writing done, answer emails or work on lesson plans.
One day as I was leaving, I decided to get Mitch a fruit smoothie to sip on our way home. As I stood in line, a frail, elderly woman was in front of me ordering a meal. She seemed distressed, her face reflecting her frustration as she fumbled for her change, trying to get the correct amount out of her purse.
Once she’d paid, she gathered up the bag of food and her drink and tried to head for the door. She was also carrying a large purse that way swinging off of her shoulder and nearly knocking her, and all her food, over.
I hopped out of line and followed her to the door.
“Oh….how am I going to do this. Oh my….oh dear…I can’t…..” she mumbled to herself, trying to shift her weight and her cargo while pushing open the door at the same time.
“Here. Let me get that for you.” I uttered as I held the door open for her and steadied her drink. “Would you like me to carry your food to your car?”
She stopped dead in her tracks, her bright blue eyes looking up at me with gratefulness. “Oh dear……why you must still have a grandmother living that you love…. to be so kind to an old woman.”
“No ma’am, I don’t.” I answered. “I just love Jesus and He wants me to help you.”
Her face suddenly softened and her eyes reflected amazement as she shook her head slightly and said. “Oh my….Of course. You people have been so helpful to me. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
She meant “You Christians”
It made me wonder, how had other Christians helped her out in the past? Did they feed her a meal? Rake her yard in the fall or shovel her driveway in the winter? Had they given her a ride to the doctor’s?
She didn’t identify herself with the group saying “Oh thank you for helping a sister out.” No. She referred to me–and others who loved Jesus–as “You people”
It drove home again for me the age old truth, more is caught than taught. And it assured me that people are watching.
What do they see?
I am saddened that often when I am “lumped” with other believers, a compliment is not paid. I have been told all of the following:
By a waitress: “Christians are the worst tippers in the world; especially after a big Sunday supper out. Sometimes they leave no money at all.”
By an acquaintance back in college: “You are a Christian? So do you stand out in front of the science building on your campus and scream Bible verses at people telling them they are all going to hell for believing in evolution? I don’t believe in evolution. I was just trying to go to class.”
By a sweet, mis-guided teenager from a broken and violent home, looking for love with her heart and announcing it with her body: “Oh, I tried going to church once. There was a sign on the front door that said ‘All are welcome but please dress appropriately.’ I didn’t know what appropriately meant, but I knew it wasn’t me. So I turned around and left.”
Please don’t mis-hear me. There are issues in the Bible God (and I) feel very passionate about. Issues God wants us to take a strong stand on IN THE PROPER FORUM.
He also want us to speak and answer with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
If the watching world sees hate, misplaced condemning judgement and a bunch of Christians who walk around looking as if they’ve been baptized in prune juice, tell me again—why oh why would they want to become on of us?
My prayer today is that more of us….and that I….would always be lumped in the “You people” group my sweet McDonald’s friend saw.
The following ditty was scribbled on the inside of my Bible in college:
You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day, by the things that you do and the words that you say.
Others read what you write, whether faulty or true.
Say, what is the gospel according to you?