Turning tables

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A couple months ago, I was manning the counter of my parents’ dry cleaners (as I usually do when I go home).  It was approaching closing time and I was the only one at the store.  The only thing I had on my mind was closing up shop and making my way home.  An elderly man walks in with nothing about him that jumped out at me, so to me, he was just another customer to get through before I punched out.  But the strangest thing happened when he started engaging with me in conversation:

Man: You must be their son.  Giving your parents the night off, ey? [Hands me his ticket for his clothes]

Me: Yeah, they could use one every now and then. [Retrieves his clothes and rings him up]

Man: What do you do now?  Are you still in school?  [Receives his change and lingers]

Me: I’m currently in grad school.  Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the North Shore of Massachusetts.  [Taken aback by his lingering and awkwardly standing there]

Man: [Smiles] Do you know John 3:16?

Me: [Even more befuddled at this point, stumbling:] … Er, yes.

Man: [Smiles even bigger] Good.  We need more people like you.

Me: [Pretending to do shuffle through the day’s tickets and cash register to seem busy] Thank you.

Man: [Turns to leave and exit the store] God bless you.

If you couldn’t tell from my stage direction, I was somewhat uncomfortable by the entire conversation.  But as I took time to reflect more on the episode in the following days, I began to wonder, “Why?”  Why did that conversation feel so awkward for me?  As someone going into ministry, it shouldn’t have been that unnatural for me to engage in such confrontations.  But there was something very evident about the fact that I wasn’t the one asking the questions in the conversation.  For someone who is used to doing the evangelizing, to be the one evangelized to was new territory.  On top of that, we were away from my comfort zones of the church and/or college ministry setting.  The tables were turned and I immediately felt that I was in a position of vulnerability.

– –

Gospel Connection: As Christians, we are all called to follow both the Great Commandments (Exod. 20; Deut. 5) and Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20).  The growing concern I’ve seen in the Church, and something I struggle with myself, is an overemphasis on the former over the latter.  Many Christians are comfortable with their faith because they’ve privatized it to their relationship with “me and God.”  But there is a distinct difference between a “private” faith and a “personal” one.  While everyone’s faith walk is personal in their own unique ways, it does not merit us to keep them private.

The beauty of the Church is that it is a body of confessing sinners.  Men and women of different cultures, from different background, and in different circumstances, can come together to worship the one true, living, and Triune God.  Despite what sins we may struggle with in our “private lives,” the Great Commission enables believers of Christ to be outwardly-minded and not inwardly focused.  My encounter with the elderly man helped remind me of this.  I was uncomfortable with his exposing my faith and wanted to hoard it for my own.  But what he did was show me the self-centeredness of my sin, and conveyed his own faith in utter humility and compassion.  Even as a future pastor, my own heart needs to be preached the Gospel every now and then (in most cases, everyday).

With the inceptions of iconic Christian figures like Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin into modern society, it has been easier for younger believers to step forward in their faith.  But we must be careful not to claim our allegiance to such influential figures of popular culture, and see Who it is that they are pointing to themselves.  What is personal about your own spiritual journey?  In what ways are you “un-privatizing” your relationship with Christ within the Church and beyond?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Romans 1:16-17 


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