Cleaning Out the Closets: The necessity of love

“Hey, I didn’t get my extra tray of fish?” The gruff and irritated comment came from a 50 something man at the table across from our family at the Long John Silver’s. He sat there with his wife and another couple, and they had obviously just come from church.

“I’m sorry,” the young lady replied, “they’re having to fry up some more, and I’ll bring it out as soon as it’s ready.” The poor lady looked completely frazzled. It was busy, and she had a lot on her plate -taking orders and bringing food out to the tables, and trying to be kind and patient to numbskull customers like this guy.

“Alright, but don’t forget,” came his curt reply.

The burner to my blood had been turned on, and it was rapidly reaching its boiling point.

A few minutes later, she came back with our food, and asked if we needed anything else. We told her we were fine.

As she turned around, the man across the table called out, “Hey, I’m still waiting on my extra tray of fish.” I’m still confused by why he needed it at that moment, because he still had plenty of food in front of him, but people like that are hard to figure out.

“I’m going to get that for you right now,” she replied with the most genuine smile she could muster while looking up at the growing line of people at the register.

“Here, I need some more Pepsi,” (Disclaimer: I’m not certain it was Pepsi; I honestly can’t remember.) he said as he handed her his cup without so much as looking at her. She went to the fountain, which is strategically placed where customers can get their own refills, and got him his refill. She brought it back to the table and didn’t get so much as a look of appreciation from the guy.

At this point my blood was boiling. There are few things that irritate me more than “church people” who are rude to their servers at Sunday lunch (or any time for that matter). I am not a controversial person by nature, my wife will attest to that, but when I see jerks like that treat people so hatefully, my nature gets put on the back burner.

Carrie could see the anger in my eyes. I looked at her and said, “If that guy says one more hateful thing to her, I’m going to tell him off.”

The man never said anything else to her, so he was off the hook, but I still wish I had called him out on his behavior. I was actually going to use his tie as my point of attack. He sat there with his “church clothes” on, wearing a tie with a beautiful lighthouse, and I couldn’t believe the irony. The lighthouse on that tie was obviously meant to represent the light of Christ, reminding us that we are his “lighthouses”, letting our lights shine to a lost world so that they will see him in us and glorify our heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16). Yet, this man was anything but a light to this lady. Having come from church myself, I was embarrassed to admit it because of this man’s foolishness. Christians, whether we like it or not, we have representatives like this man out there, and if you are one of them, STOP!!! If you see one of them, please confront that person!

I’m not willing to sacrifice someone’s soul for an extra tray of fried fish, or hot French fries, or a steak that wasn’t cooked to my request. And I am not willing to let someone sacrifice another’s soul for the convenience of sitting in my seat so as not to cause any waves.

Unfortunately, I’ve had many conversations with servers who describe “church people” or “the church crowd” as being the worst people to deal with and the lousiest tippers. This is obviously not true in every situation but it certainly seems to be the general consensus among those who have to deal with them.

The man at Long John Silver’s probably woke up Sunday morning, read his Bible and prayed, put on his “Sunday best,” went to Sunday School and taught his class, sang the hymns, sat through the sermon saying amen throughout, and walked out telling the pastor how great the sermon was and how much he looked forward to being back for the evening service. He fulfilled his list of Sunday duties that, in his mind, made him a righteous person. He had his list of righteousness and godliness that he lives by, and he was able to check off each item with confidence and pride. In his mind, he had pleased God because he had maintained his high standards.

I am not suggesting we live our lives without standards; we need standards by which to conduct ourselves and keep ourselves and those we love safe. However, any standard we hold must find its source in love (Matthew 22:36-40, Romans 13:8-10). When we allow our self-imposed rules and regulations to squeeze love out of our hearts, we have missed the mark of true righteousness. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, ESV). He didn’t say people will know we are his disciples by what we wear or don’t wear, or how many Bible verses we know, or how often we go to church, or how long we read our Bibles and pray. I’m not downplaying any of these, but Jesus did not set these as the pinnacles of our testimonies. He said there is one thing that shines brighter than all the others -love. Love speaks volumes to the lost, the hurting, and the broken. Love shouts louder than anything else, “I am a follower of Jesus Christ.”

Let me pull all this together. In my last post I left you with the question, “What has made our fear of people such a valid fear?” Why are we so afraid to pour our hearts out to the very people who are supposed to be ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) for the most gentle, kind, caring, and loving person who ever walked on this Earth? Why do we hide our testimonies from the body of Christ that is supposed to “build itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16)? Because we have all observed the absence of love in the body of Christ. We have seen how cruel, judgmental, and unaccepting people can be, and we shy away from anything that might give these people a reason to find us in their cross-hairs.

However, cruelty and lack of love are not the only reasons we are afraid to open our hearts. We’ll talk about some other reasons next time. For now, I want to challenge you to rise above the self-imposed standards and focus on love. Work hard at being a loving person and let that be your standard of righteousness, and all the other things will fall into place. If you love, your fear of what others think will pale in comparison to what they need because, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear,” (1 John 4:18).

Please be sure to share this with someone who needs to hear it, and remember to like us on Facebook so we can reach even more people with the hope of knowing we are masterpieces of grace.

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