Obedience or guilt: does it matter?

So, I was downtown on Tuesday morning for the monthly BI roundtable. I was able to get out more quickly than usual and nearly hopped on the 10:30am train back home. Unfortunately, it pulled away just as I ran up to platform 5. (I wasted precious seconds at the monitor deciphering whether the blurry number on the screen was 5 or 6, should have known better just to go and figure it out when I got there!) Anyway, I decided I had nothing better to do but eat lunch. At 10:45am. I got a sandwich, chips and a pop at Subway within the train station. I realized I wasn’t hungry so it sat there while I read my book. Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan. But only a few minutes went by before I couldn’t stand it any longer (there’s food within my grasp … must. eat. it). I unwrapped the sandwich and bit into it. I continued to read and eat and by the time I finished my lunch, it MIGHT have been 11am. I was disgusted with myself. I wasn’t even hungry! The ironic part of all this is that the book Crazy Love’s basic premise (in my own words) is that we are rich–filthy rich–with blessing and we need to quit being so selfish so that we can share with others (and, therefore, serve Christ). He writes:

Remember the story where Jesus feeds the 5,000 with fish and loaves? Imagine if the disciples had simply held onto the food Jesus gave them, continually thanking Him for providing lunch for them. That wouldv’e been stupid when there was enough food to feed the thousands who were gathered and hungry.

Nicely illustrated as I sat there feeling stuffed from my more-than-sufficient early and unnecessary lunch. I debated with myself about buying another sandwich to take outside to one of the homeless persons I saw outside the train station as I rushed in an attempt to catch the train home. Chan also quotes pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne: “Oh, my friends! Enjoy your money; make the most of it; give none away; enjoy it quickly for I can tell you, you will be beggars throughout eternity.” Ouch. I knew it was guilt I was trying to ease, but I also know it’s better to err on the side of doing good, rather than to talk myself out of it. So, without wanting to miss yet another train and feeling uncertain about the needs of those outside, I decided on a cookie. Not as big of an investment, and who wouldn’t like a cookie?

So, I bought a sugar cookie with M&Ms from Mrs. Fields, and marched on out to the nearest beggar I could find. I stopped next to a fidgety black man sitting on the bridge. When I met his eyes, he held out his cup for change. I suggested a cookie and he said “Su-ure.” I don’t remember much what happened after that, I turned to head back to get on the next train. Probably not exactly what God had in mind, but I knew I was making steps in the right direction. At least I knew I was obedient in that moment.

It certainly put things into perspective for me. I can see God is opening my eyes to a new way of thinking about this world we live in.

My plan for next month (or maybe earlier if we can swing it as a family activity), is I want to make lunches to take downtown and distribute. Maybe share a smile and learn somebody’s name this time while I am at it.

[Updated 12/9 to add: I packed up 3 lunch bags with sandwiches, chips, an apple and a book of John to share with those I encountered on the streets today. And … didn’t see a single person to share with. I’m sure there’s a lesson here but I have yet to figure it out.]

“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” Luke 9:25


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