As I write this post I’m on what I call a “work-cation.” As a writer, I often go away to a more secluded and quiet place where I can be more focused. For now I’m in a little place on Lake Chelan, which is a long, river-like lake nestled among the mountains in Central Washington State. God’s majestic creation encircles this little hamlet with snow-covered mountains, rolling hills and aqua-colored water that in the mornings is more like glass since it’s so smooth.
This morning I needed something at the store, which is about ¾ of a mile from where I am staying. The morning was so lovely that I decided to walk to the store and then stop at a little coffee shop on the way back.
I like to walk (as my loyal readers know), and so I was quick to receive the invitation for a morning stroll from the blue sky and sunshine that called my name. Everything was so glorious! How could it not be when encased in such natural beauty!
My time at the grocery store was quick since I only had one item to purchase, and I also picked up the latest edition of one of my favorite health magazines. Then I was off to the coffee shop for a 16 ounce latte made with whole milk, hold the foam, please.
As I stood at the counter waiting for the hot beverage, I noticed a man sitting at one of the tables reading his obviously well-used Bible. He also had another book with him. It was a small hardback book that was so tattered there was duct tape holding the tome together! My heart filled with happiness as I witnessed a brother in the Lord feeding on God’s truth.
I sat down at a nearby table and glanced over at the duct taped book. It was Oswald Chambers’ hugely popular devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. Again, I felt a spark of joy as I considered the age of this copy and the many hours of use it had granted.
By now, the owner of the coffee shop had stopped by to say ‘hello’ to the man at the table. I overheard their exchange. The man saying he was from out of town and that he and his wife were visiting for the last week, but would be leaving today. The owner expressed how wonderful it was that they could visit at this lovely time of year and he hoped their drive home would be a pleasant one. Awe, more goodness filled the atmosphere with the kind words.
Then it happened . . . the Bible-reading man started talking how he was really upset that the temperatures had been so cool and that the days won’t warm up until after they leave. And then he started complaining about “this time of year” when all the political candidates start coming out and showing their ugly selves. From there he started a people-bashing rant about “them” and “who do they think they are.”
I could see the owner trying to back away from the man, clearly surprised at the unpleasantries being spewed. He finally escaped when a couple entered the shop and he returned to his post to attend to their order.
Then the man turned to me and asked where I lived and what I was doing here at the Lake. I told him I lived a few hours’ drive away and that I would be leaving tomorrow. I asked where he lived, and he told me he and his family live in Seattle, but would like to move near this place. Then he went on to murmur and complain about all the city-people and how they’ve all made life so unpleasant for him.
At least five minutes of the monologue was about people who like dogs and how he hates that dogs live in the city and he has to put up with them. Then he went on to condemn other people who live in the area.
When he took a minute pause, I tried to bring some light back into what had turned into a very dark conversation, “One thing I know for sure is that God calls me to love. And so I try to be God’s love to all those I encounter, even if I don’t agree with their lifestyle or their choices.” But I don’t think he heard me. He went on bashing people and their way of living for another five minutes or more.
He finally stopped when his cell phone rang. Seemed it was his wife asking when he would return.
The man stood up. Grabbed his books, and then said, “Well, my hope is in Christ. I’m not perfect. But I keep my eyes on Him who is.”
We said our good-byes. He walked out the door and I sat there wincing as I tried to reconcile what had just taken place.
So why am I writing about this encounter? Maybe you already see it. Here is my take – actually, it’s not my opinion, it’s the truth of God about His people.
As Christians, we are to be examples of God and His goodness to the world. People, who don’t yet know Christ, watch us. They form their opinions about Jesus and about being a Christian by what they see and by what they witness through our way of acting . . . our way of being.
The Bible calls us “ambassadors for Christ.” An ambassador is defined as “an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country.” For you and me, that means we are diplomats from the Kingdom of God to represent Christ to the world. In our rank, we are to use diplomacy, which is defined as “the work of maintaining good relations between the governments of different countries; skill in dealing with others without causing bad feelings.”
As Christ’s representatives we need to take a look at how are we “showing up” to those who are watching us? And would our Lord, who has sent us into the world on His behalf, be pleased?
One of my favorite passages speaks of this very position you and I hold. It’s from 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
Because of this passage, I regularly ask myself, “How do you smell today, Susan?” And if the answer isn’t “sweet and pleasant” then I know I need to make some adjustments.
As God’s chosen people we are to love and we also are called to give grace. That’s the way God does things. So as I think about the Bible-reading man in the coffee shop, I realize he may have been having a bad day or maybe his “culture of living” had hijacking his emotions. Maybe he needed to get some things off his chest and just wanted someone to listen to the issues troubling his heart. And frankly, it’s not for me to judge his heart or his motives.
But what I am called to do is to lead a faith-driven life. To start with what God calls me to do and to try my very best to fulfill His mandates. The default is always to love. We can’t ever make a mistake when we love God and others. And since God sees me as “the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” I want to be a sweet aroma for Him and to those I encounter.