Is it sad that we are surprised when people are nice now? The waitress, the customer service rep on the phone, the driver who lets you in during traffic – when people are kind, it can feel like the exception rather than the rule.
Here was my husband’s observation recently: “It seems like the norm now is that people are rude.” Right when I was ready to chime in with “I know that’s right!”, he finished his thought: “It just makes it that much easier for us to stand out as salt & light.” Oh, yeah. That’s right too.
This past weekend, we went to the mall and there was a young employee who stood out. It was obvious by his use of accessories and make-up that he didn’t necessarily fit the usual mold. As I was shopping, a couple walked in who also took notice of this young man but chose to find some humor at his expense. Sadly, he knew it. He hung his head down and proceeded to do his work.
After they left, I walked over to him and expressed how rude those people were and that he didn’t need to worry about them. Then, I just simply put my hand on his shoulder and said, “You’re okay”.
As soon as I walked away, I started to doubt myself. It seemed like he may not be making the best choices – should I have said more?? I went into Christian panic mode feeling like I just failed the Great Commission.
As I thought more about it, I sensed God taking me back to stories in the New Testament with Jesus. His entire life was spent encountering people whose choices He didn’t agree with either. Sure, there were times He called them out but when given the opportunity to condemn, He offered acceptance OF THE PERSON instead.
Remember the story of Zacchaeus? This guy wasn’t just a tax collector, he was a CHIEF tax collector which means he probably swindled people the most out of their money. When Jesus came in town, Zacchaeus was determined to just catch a glimpse of him. It turns out that more than Zacchaeus seeing Jesus…Jesus saw him.
By now, the crowd is probably excited and thinking, “Yes!! Finally! Jesus is going to set this guy straight. It’s about time”.
What happened next shocked everyone. Jesus instead says “Let’s have lunch!”. Now, we’ve already established that Zacchaeus wasn’t one of the nice guys who would have let you cut in during traffic. So, you would think the follow-up statement would be… “But before we hang-out, you need to do x-y-z”. In fact, Jesus didn’t say anything else. He invited Himself over and that was it.
Zacchaeus received Jesus “joyfully” and then without a lecture or even a good-talkin-to by Jesus, he said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” (Luke 19:8b)
It was the kindness of Jesus that led Zacchaeus to repentance. But this doesn’t just work with wee-little men. Isn’t this true of us too? Paul confirms it in Romans 2:4b, “…God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.”
Not a list of our sins. Not an explanation of Biblical doctrines. His kindness does that for us. There is a time and place for correction but it is His kindness that leads me to change.
Maybe His kindness through us could do it for someone else too. Not a list of their sins. Not an explanation of Biblical doctrines. Just being salt & light and letting them know that they’ve been seen…and they are okay.