Treating People Like Jesus

McDonalds really seems to be at the crossroads of American life. Rich and poor gather under the golden arches for cheap food that is quick and tasty. Their slogan could just as easily be, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to eat cheap.” I’ve seen business suits and birthday suits at McDonalds, it attracts everyone.

English: The official logo.
English: The official logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was at a discipling group today at one of our local McDonalds. While I was waiting for the group members to show up, I had someone join me at my table and he proceeded to hand me a couple of napkins and some hand sanitizing wipes. I (without looking up from my book) said thanks and kept reading. He handed out more napkins and wipes to the surrounding tables before returning to sit down next to me. When he noticed that I didn’t use the napkin as a coaster, he felt the need to pick up my cup and do it for me.

That got my attention and I knew this guy was serious about wanting to have some company, so I put my book down and waited for what was next. In our next few minutes together (about 15) here are the topics we covered:

  • Getting an ID from the government
  • Police
  • Colorado
  • Colorado’s nice residents
  • Kansas
  • Looooosiana
  • New York and New Jersey (he was born in both places)
  • California
  • Missouri
  • Colorado’s nice residents
  • Texas
  • The DMV
  • And how nice everyone in Colorado.

The two most repeated phrases of our conversation were, “You know?” (I didn’t, which got me in trouble on a number of occasions) and, “It’s just such a pain in the ass.” (I pretended to know).

You can probably tell by now that something wasn’t well with my new acquaintance, and the longer he sat across from me the more potent the smell of alcohol became. He was out of it enough that after my discipling group (an hour and a half long) I saw him again having a conversation with a bird statue a few blocks down (yes conversation, not monologue).

He even drew me a picture.

Towards the end of our time together he began to berate and yell at another customer as he was leaving McDonald’s because the guy at my table was convinced that he was the governor of Colorado and couldn’t figure out why he didn’t want to have a conversation with him.

Since the moment we first began to talk I had a nudge to engage his guy and talk to him. I kept hearing in my mind, “Treat this guy like Jesus.” Which of course meant that I would need to act like Jesus.

How do you extend grace, fellowship and company to someone that drunk, disoriented and out of it all together? I had Matthew 25 running through my head:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”

I knew that this is a guy loved and created in the image of God. I needed to treat him as such, but thinking about it and doing it are two different things. Given his current state it was going to be even harder. Here are some things I thought about that I think are helpful. I, in no way, think I was perfect and don’t think I’ve covered everything well. I’ve got room to grow and hope that God continues to shape me so I do better next time. Here are three things I think we need to practice better.

  1. Talk to them. There were several people that either blew off his presence or mocked him. A couple of tables snickered and pointed fingers as he talked. Engaging him and talking to him validates his humanity. Even in an inebriated state he needs to be treated humanely.
  2. Offer help. When he was talking about going to the DMV, he showed me the address he needed to go. I offered to help him find it. Though I was met with an angry outburst (because he knew the way), the point is that we should offer to go the extra step. Spend voluntary time with him.
  3. Offer to pray. This is an opportunity I’m ashamed to say that I missed. Part of it was because I barely got a word it, but most of it was because I wasn’t assertive enough. I could have offered to pray with him and his struggle to get to the DMV.

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Please comment below and add to the list. What other suggestions do you have?

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The Way!

There are many people in the world looking, desperately searching for their way in this life. They are trying to find their path.

photo courtesy of Ponsulak

In their search they will no doubt run across several different paths. Some with signs shining brightly with brilliant lights and much fanfare, and some with really cool graphics touting all of the modern catch phrases. Then there is the path that has a sign simply stating “The Way”. Which path will they choose is the question? Will they choose one of the paths that are more enticing, or the one with the simple statement?

It is so very easy to become confused by all of the different paths, and for those that are on a particular path, it always seems like the right one to them and they will gladly tell you the same.

How I wish that everyone could/would choose the right path. It would make their/our lives so much better. We would have much less heartache, stress, worry and fear in this world.

    “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14 NIV

Thank you Father for showing us “The Way”. Help us to shine your light to light the right path to a lost and dying world.

Confessions of a Frustrated (Christian) Preacher

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)

I don’t know how many of you are ‘regular readers’ of the Relevant Christian blog and how many of you just happen to be tag surfing or accidentally googled us. I don’t know how you got here, but I am glad you are here.

I don’t know where you are, either. That is, maybe you are a Christian, maybe you are not; it doesn’t really matter. I don’t know, and I won’t presume to have all the answers to all your questions or concerns or problems. I don’t know where you are in life, but I am glad you are here. I hope you can and will engage us in conversation regardless of where you are.

There is a far better life that is the life of faith. It is a life that has decided to be done with religion and to get on living in Christ. It is a life that has decided, in the words of Graham Cooke, to ‘live in Christ and not in circumstances.’ It is a life that, again in the words of Graham Cooke, ‘loves his life more than [your] own.’ It’s a life that has decided to follow Jesus.
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My name is jerry. My friend Joe invited me to blog here and I’m glad he did. I love writing and blogging has afforded me an outlet to enjoy my habit and hobby unfettered by the chains of deadlines, budgets, and someone else’s vision of my work.

My name is jerry. I am a sinner saved by grace. I am also a preacher, by calling and not by choice. People ask me about my ‘calling’ and I tell them frankly, “I can’t explain how I know. I just know. I didn’t choose preaching, it chose me.” I can’t explain how I know I am a preacher, I just know.

But I’m a frustrated preacher; a terribly frustrated preacher. You see, I love preaching. I am never more alive as a christian than when I am standing in a pulpit, in the power of the Spirit, under the authority of the Word of God, and authorized by Jesus preaching the Gospel. When I get up to preach, however, I am a basket case, a bundle of nerves and anxiety, ready to throw-up at any minute, and weak. Then I get started and the Spirit of God gives me strength and the words start pouring out of my mouth and I wonder how it happens and where it comes from. Then it’s over. 30 minutes preaching is nothing like 30 minutes listening. When I go home on Sunday afternoon, I am exhausted.

I am a frustrated preacher and this has led me into an area of my life that I’m not yet fully understanding: I am a frustrated Christian. I can’t explain it yet, but I am working on it intensely. I will be sharing with you some of my history in a several post series blog entries. These post are aimed at serving two ends. First, they are cathartic. I need to share what I have been learning and the path that I believe the Lord has set before me in recent days. Not that my particular story is special but that, second, I know there are people in the world who have the exact same sense of frustration and anxiety over their faith walk. I hope to engage you in conversation or be an encouragement to you.

As such, I am writing from a particular point of view: the pulpit.
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I think it happened this past Thursday evening when I went to a conference where the speaker was Graham Cooke and the worship that led up to the speaker was decidedly Pentecostal in flavor. I’m from a traditionally conservative (read: boring) worship tradition so being involved in a Pentecostal worship service was rather like leaving the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and entering a mosh pit at an Anthrax concert. I spent most of my time trying to worship, but mostly sitting slack-jawed and observing the worshipers.

There were people barefoot dancing. There were old ladies with hands uplifted. People in wheelchairs. Old men. Young men. There were young people laying on their faces. There were open eyes, open mouths, open hands and open hearts. There were babies. There were people who desperately wanted to wave their banners and flags and bang on their tambourines (space considerations had driven the leadership to put a ban on such things that evening.) People had a joy in their eyes that I knew could only come from their hearts and from the Holy Spirit. I took in as much as I could. I was amazed.

But I was sad and a large part of me suffered mightily during that worship. I didn’t have that joy that literally everyone around the room had. I felt terribly out of place and alone. I texted my wife something to that effect. I told her that I hadn’t had that sort of joy for a long time. Then I texted her again and told her why: preaching in a local church had robbed me of joy. I thought about it through the next song only to have my suspicions confirmed: Even my preaching had recently been reduced to a mere religious exercise and not an act of Holy Spirit inspired Faith. It’s not that I needed the experience to validate or create the joy but that I think the joy will lead us into a fuller experience.

I have allowed, in one way or another, the Holy Spirit of God to be quenched in my life. And I can attribute that quenching to only one thing: Paid ministry.
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In the next installment of this series, I will give you a little bit of background on how I got from ‘there to here,’ that is, some of the journey I have taken into the dark cold world that is the paid ministry.

I have no illusions that everyone will agree with my conclusions. That’s OK. I’m giving voice to my journey because maybe there are others who feel trapped in paid ministry and maybe there are some who are considering paid ministry as a vocation. Todd D Hunter wrote, “We don’t need to add ‘spiritual’ activities to our life as much as we need to make our actual, everyday life spiritual. What we typically think of as ‘spiritual’ often ends up creating a false dualism” (Christianity Beyond Belief, 115).

My aim is to help prevent someone from creating such a false dualism in their own life.

Links to things or people or other referenced in this post:

Preaching to the Dead
New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Anthrax (**content warning**)
Graham Cooke
Todd D Hunter
Google