If you saw the title of this post and assumed I would tell you a warm-hearted story about how I shared the gospel with the cashier of the grocery store, you were wrong. Sure. I interacted with cashiers and other people in the check-out line with me. But from their perspective, I was no different than any other “nice person”.
I bought groceries at three different stores today. (Coupons and sales, people! Don’t judge.) At each of the three stores the checker struggled. Here are some verbal snapshots of how it all went down.
Store #1 — The cashier didn’t understand that Buy One Get One free is the same as getting each item for half price. Math, people! Two halves equal one whole. She was sweet in her ignorance, but I wondered if she’d already been promoted to her level of incompetence.
Store #2 — Struggling to communicate with a young family who was obviously not from around these parts, the cashier repeatedly explained that they didn’t have any larger reusable bags. The husband, who spoke perfect English, said, “These are two small. We’re riding the bus.”
Once again, “I’m sorry. We don’t have any bigger bags.” She finally finishes ringing them up. He hands her a Lonestar Card (that’s Texas’ version of food stamps in the form of plastic). She hands it back to him and tells him to swipe it at the keypad. When he reaches to swipe the card upside down and horizontally, she stops him and shows him the proper way.
After all is said and done, he still owes seven dollars and some change. He looks at her, confused. “Now what do we do?” She repeats the amount he owes. He pulls out a ten dollar bill and hands it to her. In the meantime, his wife convinces him to buy a couple of the small reusable bags. He asks how much they cost. “One dollar.” He hands the cashier two bags. She rings them up and tells him his total: “$2.17” Shaking his head, obviously wondering how one dollar became two plus, he hands her two one dollar bills and a handful of change. “Take it from that.” (I translated that in my mind to mean he isn’t sure what the coins are worth.)
With a cart full of groceries, a baby and two small reusable bags, the little family makes their way out to the parking lot.
I smiled at the cashier. “I’m not in any hurry, so don’t stress yourself.” Her shoulders relaxed, and she rang me up without any further incident.
Now it was my turn to take a cart out to the parking lot. I saw the family off in the distance, still wrangling the cart full of groceries. Since I had a couple of extra reusable bags in my car, I pulled up next to the struggling refugees(?), handed them the bags and said, “For next time.” They thanked me and we went our separate ways. I would cross the interstate before they ever got out of the parking lot.
You see, what I have failed to mention about the parking lot scene is that somewhere between the door and this row of cars, these newcomers had rolled over something with the cart that stopped it cold. If somebody wanted a prototype for a wheel lock for grocery carts, these folks found it.
There they were, strangers in a new land, carrying a baby and trying with futility to push a cart full of groceries to an unknown bus stop. In recognition of their plight, what did I do? I handed them grocery bags. That’s not the gospel; that’s… pathetic. It’s a few notches below pity and nowhere near compassion.
The gospel is not convenient and tidy; it’s more than nice gestures. The gospel requires sacrifice, compels me to love my neighbor as myself, involves intermingled lives rather than aloof passersby. (See: religious leaders in the story of the good Samaritan)
Christ left the glory and complete holiness of heaven to come to a sin-stricken world AS AN INFANT. There is nothing convenient and tidy about any of that. He lived among us, breathed our air, tasted our food, faced our temptations. Then He died the death of a criminal, despite court proceedings and rulers finding Him without fault. And as He was dying, He was praying that God would forgive us.
Nothing about the example of Christ indicates aloofness. He intermingled with us to the point of taking what should have been our punishment.
You see, Jesus would have at least helped replace the shopping cart. Truth be told, He probably would have ridden the bus home with the family and let His groceries spoil in the car. Because He was “nice”? No, because He loves well.
I’m thankful that the gospel I should have shown is the same gospel that offers ME grace when I miss opportunities to love, roll my eyes at ignorance or pat myself on the back for being “nice”.