I am pretty jaded when it comes to the Church. I guess, in general, I just feel like we as Christians have lost the plot in many ways; so caught up with programs, and big buildings, and tradition, and money, and legalism, and laws, and judgments, and so on, that we often neglect the simple, basic things like love of God and justice.
I have a friend who is faced with a challenge. It is not just any “challenge”, but it is one that will lead to many of her Christian friends judging her, treating her different, not being nice to her, and being generally self righteous towards her. I am not a psychic, profit, or meteorologist, but based on my previous experiences with friends who have been in the same, and similar, situations, I pretty much know Christian people’s responses. And those responses are what my friend is very scared of.
I have seen Christians treat people different in church because they are smelly, dirty and wear raggy clothes. I have been told by a young “street kid” that a particular church will not let him come in because he is black. I have seen a friend dealing with homosexual feelings be totally shunned and wrongly treated. I have seen how many churches are more concerned with numbers than they are with people. I have seen people put legalism over love. I have seen people be judged and condemned, rather than cherished and embraced.
So tonight I was speaking with my wife about the situation of our friend. During the conversation I said something harsh and judgmental along the lines of, “You know, most Christians are really horrible people when it comes down to the things that really matter, like how we treat each other.” I went on to talk about how judgmental Christians can be when they think someone is “in sin”, and usually when a person needs them the most is when that person is met with judgments and condemnation.
Though I have indeed experienced this, many times, it was a blanket statement I was making.
So my wife and I went on to get some coffee at Vida e Café. She waited on the side while I went to the register to order and pay. Just as I pulled my money a guy appeared, seemingly, out of no where.
“Mr. Brown, can I pay your bill?”
I said, “Yes?”
I don’t know who was more shocked: me or the guy behind the register. I didn’t really know what to say and I looked at the guy to see where I knew him from. He said, “You don’t know me. I just know who you are.” He paid for my latte and my wife’s hot chocolate. He didn’t cause a scene, give an explanation, clang a cymbal, or even tell me his name. He took his change from the man, handed me the slip, smiled and told me to “be blessed”.
I was still in shock. I asked him where he knew me from. He said Life Church, a church in town that I often perform at. He then smiled, told me to have a nice evening, and disappeared as quick as he had popped up. I was blown away; a total stranger coming up and paying my bill, remaining nameless, and so humble. It may not hit you on the level that it hit me, but I stood there stirring sugar into my latte, fighting off tears.
A guy who, by nature of his belief system, I had just included in a negative statement about the group he belonged to, came up and performed a selfless, anonymous, and random act of kindness that made me feel really good about myself, God and that guy. I had thrown the baby out with the bath water, and the baby stood up and bought me a latte.
It was refreshing.
It was a reminder to me of how one fairly simple act can positively change the course of a person’s day.
And as I walked out of the Waterfront with both of my feet in my mouth, drinking a latte, I was also reminded that in seeking justice for those that are being mistreated, I can become just as judgmental as the people that I am upset at for being judgmental.
I gotta watch out for that!