We’ve all been there. The Walmart check-out line. In my most recent visit to WallyWorld, I was in line to check out with my few items as the customer in front of me (with about a million-billion items) was finishing up. The great thing about Walmart is that there’s always interesting things (people really) to look at while you wait.
As I stepped up to the “bag my stuff and let me pay” position, the cashier mumbled something that I’m pretty sure was intentionally loud enough to illicit a response. She said, “Well that was an awkward conversation.”
She went on to tell me about the conversation she had just had; one in which she felt judged by someone identifying themselves as a Christian.
I know. Shocking, right?
She then said, “Religion makes people feel awkward.” I replied, “For most people, I think that’s true.” She then told me about a comment she had received earlier about the earrings she was wearing. They were small skulls dangling from her ear lobes. I saw them and thought, “Yep, those are skulls…big deal.”
The cashier went on to tell me that she was agnostic. An agnostic is someone who doesn’t believe that spiritual truths can be known. They don’t believe that the existence of a higher power can be proven or dis-proven. It’s a “limbo”, a “jury’s still out”, a “hanging chad” kind of worldview. It’s euphoric in its inconclusiveness. And for better or for worse, its right where this young lady had landed.
I believe that respect is the cornerstone of talking with someone of a different worldview. I think Christians would do well to listen more and talk less. I believe that this young woman deserved to be heard, not merely spoken to and definitely not spoken at. So, that’s what I did. In my brief time standing there as she talked and swiped my items over the “beepy” thingy, I simply listened to her. And when she was done I told her that I actually teach religion, and I find it fascinating and know a bit about a variety of religions/worldviews. Throw rocks at me if you want, but I did NOT want to say “I’m a Christian too.” She had just had an interaction with Little Miss Earring Critic over there and I didn’t want to be painted with the same brush.
What would you have done in my situation? How would you have responded to her? What would you have said/not said? Whatever your thoughts, I’d love to hear them.
6 thoughts on “A chance encounter”
I think I would have done the same thing. I think religion is a dead end, Jesus is not. One of the most impressive things about Jesus is how he handled the religious piety of his day. Once we figure out that we are sinners, just as much as the next guy, it is easier to talk to the ones still searching for hope. Jesus fills the hole, sometimes we are in his way.
I totally agree–humility is the best bridge builder there is, no matter what the situation.
I think religion is dead, or a dead end. Jesus is not dead. One of the most fascinating things about Jesus is how he handled the religious piety of his day. Funny thing is, the sooner we realize that our own sin is just as condemning as the next guy, it is little easier to listen as others struggle to believe. Jesus came to identify with us, unlike us, he didn’t sin. When people are searching for a way to fill a hole in their lives, sometimes we need to get out of His way.
Jesus: “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
Jerry, it seems the Father may have brought you along to say or not say exactly what He wanted.
Wow, the idea that I didn’t say exactly what God didn’t want said kind of blows my mind. Great thoughts to think. Thanks!
Hard to know what I would have done, bud, since I wasn’t there in your situation. But I do know that not every conversation is intended by the Spirit of God to be a “witnessing opportunity,” as many believe that it should be. I think the old “law of averages” approach to sharing our faith is not only irrational but unbiblical. Now you can tell me what you think. Tag, you’re it!
I used to use an illustration that went something like this: Imagine there are 100 shoeboxes stacked in front of you. One has a gold bar in it, and the rest are filled with rocks. You can take as much time as you like to open them. Would you say to me, “No, I’m not going to do that because I’m sure I’d get discouraged by all the boxes with rocks; it’s not worth it to go through all that to find the one with the gold.”? Of course not. You’d be willing to keep at it until you opened the box with the gold, wouldn’t you?
While I completely agree that the “law of averages” approach to witnessing isn’t the way to go, it does seem that there’s something to the idea of “opening shoeboxes” so to speak. You may get “no” upon “no” upon “no” until finally a “yes” is uncovered. But all this puts on the same philosophy as a door-to-door vacuum salesman and that idea just make a throw up a little.
I think Paul said it best when he said “Make the most of every opportunity…” (Eph. 5:16) It seems some Christians translate that as “Make the most opportunities…” and take it upon themselves to force the Holy Spirit’s hand so to speak.
And let’s not forget the “one plants, another waters, but God gives the increase!” (1 Cor. 3:7)
Anyway, sorry for the long reply, but your comment was just too good! Thanks!