Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Express Lane Gospel Auctioneer

I'm in the grocery store checkout line today repeating the mantra to myself, "The man means well, he really means well." The man is someone I've known in a superficial way for the past 23 years. I used to shop in his clothing store when I was a newlywed. Sometime between then and now we both became believers. Some days we are both the kind you want to avoid in the grocery store. Of course I think if you had to pick one of us to avoid it should be him otherwise I wouldn't be writing this post. When I used to work in the grocery store he tried to encourage me when he came through my till. We could never talk about the weather, it had to be some little tid bit of Christianese that made me want to gag. It sounded fake and was smiley, phony, mask like talk that leaves no room for humanity. I hate it though I know it well. I think I have a degree in it. Ugh.

Today he casually asked where we fellowshipped. I should've just lied. Honestly. Caught in the express lane I got the gospel thrown in with my groceries for free. Isn't there a sign in the window that says "no soliciting allowed"?

When I mentioned the Catholic church he became an instant auctioneer of the Good News. Leaving no room for me to get a word in edgewise, he started rattling off scripture verses at me like bullets firing from a gun. Take that and that and that was his method of getting his point across. That's how it felt. The whole nine yards when it comes to the need to be born again, how baptism accomplishes nothing and how he'd give someone 300 bucks if they could show him in the new testament where it was and if he proved them wrong they'd have to give him 100 bucks. How going to church didn't save anyone. How one had to live their faith not just go to church. How putting a car in a garage didn't turn it into a Cadillac. And on and on and on. The sad thing is that we have never moved past the preliminaries in our relationship. He has no idea where I stand on anything. No idea as to my relationship with Jesus. But that darn "C" word was like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

I feel like I fail miserably at these kind of encounters. It's like I've eaten ice cream too fast and it causes a spiritual brain freeze. There are no witty replies, no intelligent debate. And sadly, no love.

When he eventually stopped to catch his breath I told him I agreed that one needed to be born again but that salvation was all about grace. That grace word put an end to the conversation. How weird is that? Especially since I can talk about it so much easier than actually extend it.

I wanted to tell him I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling but when the day is done if grace won't get me through I am sunk. I am clothed in humanity. There ain't no getting away from it.

Eventually my groceries were rung through and I headed to the car. I thought on the way, "Lord, this man is my brother. I am supposed to love him. What does that look like?" They say that Christians are the only ones who shoot their wounded. I certainly felt shot at today. But somehow I think the gunman was wounded too.

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