Friday, January 27, 2017

It All Comes Around...

 While I was waiting in line at the grocery store, I noticed the woman behind me only had two items and I had a cart stocked full of groceries (and individual cat food cans that the cashier needs to scan one at a time for some reason). I insisted she go ahead of me. A minute or so later another woman brings her cart up behind and a young man came to me in front of her, ‘she just let me go, I only have two items, can you let me go before you?’. I was slightly annoyed, he was expecting me to let him go first, no longer relying on the generosity of my heart, the woman behind me let him go, wouldn’t I?
 She reiterated, “I let him go, he’s only got two things”, fine - I half heartedly said ‘sure, go ahead’. But my heart wasn’t in the right place. ‘You know it’s funny, that’s the second person I let go who only had two items, the person before him had two items.’ I just had to let her know why I sounded less kind - because it’s the second time in a row. I could feel I was approaching the situation poorly, with the wrong attitude. I tried to shift my demeanor, ‘it’s no big deal, where’s the two item or less aisle when you need it right?’ making a joke to bring levity. ‘It will come back around you know’, she said. What do you say to that?
 ‘Yeah..’ was all that came out. I knew this was an opportunity to share something, but my heart wasn’t there and I wasn’t ready. She went on to tell me a couple stories about how she and her husband did good things - returned a $100 to someone who dropped it, went back to the store to pay for groceries that they had forgotten were in the bottom of their cart, they were ‘good people’ you know?
 ‘Yeah… that’s good you did that’, ‘it all comes around, you know?’ she repeated. ‘I know, God is good’ I said. I wish I had more to share.
 When I left the store I realized I forgot to pick up bread for my wife, so I unpacked my groceries and went back in. This store had a Starbucks and today was my birthday, so I figured, I’d stop by and get my free birthday coffee ‘it all comes around, you know’? I waited in line and asked and no, it turns out, that Starbucks doesn’t honor the free birthday drinks. It doesn’t come around. Come to think of it, she never mentioned anything good coming back to her, she only mentioned what she did, like she was trying to justify that she and her husband were good people. Breaks my heart, no one is ever ‘good enough’ to make it to heaven on their own merits. That’s why we need Jesus. He did what we couldn’t do.  We do things that are selfish and by nature are against God, this is called sin. And the only punishment for sin is death (separation from God). Jesus paid this debt by living a perfect life, dying according to scriptures, on a cross and was raised to life so that anyone who believes this - who takes God at His word, are given the right to be called children of God. That’s heaven, being with God, forever. Heaven isn’t a nice place ‘good people’ go. No one is good enough, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
 I wish I had responded to her statement about it all coming back with ‘I’ve already received mine - and you have too, in fact, if you’re willing to believe. Through Jesus’s gift, giving His life for mine, for us, I have an outstanding debt to love always - there’s no disagreement, argument or sin God won’t forgive you or I for because of Jesus’s work on the cross. I can’t pay the debt for my mistakes, I’ll never be good enough.’ Fight the judgmental voices that argue I’m becoming preachy - of course, people need to know.
 This world has redefined sin as indulgence when ‘everything in moderation’ is best, versus what it really is, a cancer we’re all dying from. Hell wasn’t made for people, no God’s will is that none should perish. Hell was made for the devil and his angels - don’t believe in the devil and his angels? Look at the world around you - in a world with free choice, things are looking pretty dark. Hell is where they go to be separated from God forever. And God’s given us free choice, we can choose to ignore Jesus, we can step over the cross, we can walk away from God - but when the time comes and we stand before God and He asks, ‘why should I let you into heaven’ I want to say ‘Because I believed you, took you at your word’ and have Jesus step in ‘I paid for this one to be with Us’. I feel utter loss for the person who says ‘I was a good person, look at all the wonderful things I did without you God’. When He says ‘be gone from here, I never knew you’ there’s nowhere else to go but Hell. Again, that’s not God’s intent, but He’s given us the choice to choose and His invitation is welcoming, to choose to believe in His gift to us through Jesus who says “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by me”. What will you choose? Or will you wait to see what comes around?