(Editor’s note: This past Sunday, after speaking about Christ’s invitation to His disciples then and now to become, ‘fishers of men,’ Kay Hart came to me with this story. I asked her to send it to me so I could present it on my blog and make a few comments. –geno)
A couple of years ago when I was in graduate school, I overheard a conversation a couple of tables from me. Of course, I don’t remember it word-for-word and I didn’t catch the beginning. Apparently, one or more of those talking had been given a free soft drink with a church’s name on a label. It seemed that one of them must have asked why and heard that phrase we know and love so well, “I’m just trying to show God’s love in a practical the way.” In short, my grad school colleagues were not impressed. One of them said something like, “I don’t care if churches pass out marketing material, just don’t give me this b*s* about doing it to show me God’s love. Passing out cokes to middle class college students is just about promoting your church. Admit it. That’s all I’m saying.” Another said something like, “If you want to show me God’s love, mentor a kid in East Austin or volunteer at Big Brothers and Sisters. If you want to show me God’s love, meet some real needs.”
That’s the story. Made me think.
A few comments are in order, I believe:
1) Our acts of kindness must be truly helpful to those receiving them in order to represent God’s love appropriately. I agree that middle-class college students don’t need a cold soda, most of the time. But over-heated drivers stuck in a traffic jam will.
2) The fact is that Christians are engaged in tutoring and working among the needy and oppressed all across our city, including in East Austin mentoring programs and volunteering with Big Brother/Sisters.
3) Criticism is almost guaranteed when we attempt anything important for God. We do not shrink back because someone is offended. We look to see how we can do better. Our task is too important to give up in the face of critique. Let’s press on loving well, always learning, growing in grace.