My second son, Ryan, works as an assistant supervisor at the Chickfila near where we live. He comes home sometimes with some interesting stories of his customers and coworkers. Recently, he came home and handed me a small card. It was a business sized card and it looked similar to the “Get Out of Jail” cards you see in Monopoly games, only it said instead, “Get Out of HELL Free”. After looking at the card, I looked up at Ryan and asked, “Where did you get this?”
And so the story began.
Ryan found himself running a cash register during the lunch rush that day. It was a Saturday, and a couple of church buses had pulled in for lunch. Apparently, the group was traveling and on their way to a retreat or mission trip or something. A man with the group stepped up to the counter and Ryan asked him what he would like to order. The man said, “I’m the bus driver.”
Ryan, looking a bit puzzled, said, “Okay. Cool.”
“Usually places give the bus drivers free food. Do ya’ll do that?”
“Um. Well, I suppose I could do that.”
A man standing behind the first one, popped his head around and said, “I’m the other bus driver.”
He obviously wanted free food, too. Ryan gave them both free food.
Then, the first man tossed the “Get Out of Hell Free” card down on the counter for Ryan. Not knowing what it was, he picked it up. Ryan had never seen one of those before. (I’ll go ahead and take credit for his ignorance here. Happily) On the reverse side of the card, in tiny print, were a few Bible verses.
The men took their free food without another word. Ryan stuck the card in his pocket and forgot about it for a little while. That is, until he was relieving another employee, and was working the drive thru window. He described a young family that had driven up. There was a dad, mom, kids in the back seat. They paid for their food, but also asked if they could pay for the people behind them.
“Sure!” Ryan said. And then the man handed Ryan a card to give to the people in the car behind them. It was a card Ryan had seen many times. It simply said, “Something extra to show you that God loves you.” It’s a card that we use at our church to encourage our folks to do random acts of kindness for people, but then point them back to the God that loves them.
Ryan did what he was asked, and when the next car pulled up, he said, “There’s no charge for your meal today. The people ahead of you already paid your bill. They asked me to give you this card.”
The two young men in the car were flabbergasted. They couldn’t get over the fact that someone who they didn’t know, had never met, would decide to bless them in that way. The impact was huge. They drove away with free food, and they were able to thank God for it.
As Ryan told me his story, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast the two cards. And if I am totally honest, I guessed the denomination of the giver of the “Get Out of Hell Free” card correctly on the first try. I won’t say it here, but I’ve been in ministry for a while now. I know church people.
Lots of times folks think tossing a card or a Bible tract at someone is sufficient to do our part in spreading the gospel of Christ to the nations. I cannot imagine a more ineffective way to reach people with the good news of Jesus. Is there a better way to belittle what Jesus did on our behalf? Tiny print, on a judgmental card, can never replace a kind act and a gentle nudge toward the Father.
That man who tossed his card at Ryan didn’t even bother to find out that Ryan already has a relationship with Jesus. He never asked or did anything to make Ryan think he cared about him at all. All that guy cared about was getting some free food. What he managed to do was to put a bad taste in Ryan’s mouth about his church and his brand of Christianity, and Ryan is a believer. Imagine if he wasn’t?
As followers of Christ, we are called to much more than that. We can’t throw platitudes at people, beating them up with our well memorized Bible verses, and expect them to see the great love the Father has for them. Instead, we are to follow the example of Jesus. We invest in people. We show them a kindness, meet a need, offer a gentle truth or encouragement. And then we point them to the reason we were moved to help in the first place. We love them because He loved us first. That was how Jesus began a revolution more than two thousand years ago, and that’s what keeps that same revolution going today until his Kingdom is realized here on Earth.