Cans, bottles, love and the word of God
Readers: This event took place a few months after the 9/11 attacks. The exchange happened almost exactly as I present it here. – BA
“Can I give you my personal testimony of a life blessed by the Holy Spirit and my awakening to my Lord Savior?”
I didn’t want to appear rude. The young man standing at my door took the time to put on a necktie and climb up two flights of stairs. But on the other hand, I was just heading out to Christmas shop and to recycle my wife’s whisky bottles. Time during the holiday season is a precious commodity.
I truly had too much to do and too little time to do it, but it was almost Christmas, a time for patience and giving. I was caught between a desire to be kind and a need to get busy, when a win-win solution dawned on me.
“May I give you my testimony?” he asked again.
“Sure,” I said. “If I can give you my recycling.”
The deal was made. I would give the young man my undivided attention; in turn, he would take my bottles and cans. I even offered to call some neighbors who might be interested in a similar deal. With one trip to the recycling center he might be able to give several testimonies.
His story was sincere though benign. He was raised middle class in the Midwest. An average student, he had little interest in the things that absorbed most kids. He wasn’t unhappy, just indifferent.
He went to a community college where he joined a Bible study group because he had a crush on a young lady who asked him to join.
Once Jesus came into his life, he was a changed person. He no longer lacked direction or felt indifference. He had a mission and a purpose. So while the rest of his family was skiing on their Christmas vacation, he would take half the day to go door to door seeking converts.
After he told his story, he gave me some pamphlets containing scriptures. I was tempted to tell him that eventually those too would need to be recycled. He asked me what was the depth of my relationship with God? He asked me if I ever felt lost or tempted? He said that during these troubling times, we all needed the Lord in our lives. I was polite and respectful; I figured the young man had earned my attention, but it was time to go.
I asked him if he would like to take an energy bar to eat later. He gratefully accepted. I handed him one and walked him down to the stairs to the parking lot. We came close to parting as friends when he turned to me and said, “The Godless in America must bear some of the responsibility for the recent terrorist attacks and suffering.” I felt like hitting him.
Instead, I told him that in my opinion, there is a thin line between the self-righteous and the self-righteously violent.
I reminded him that the antagonists in the 9-11 tragedy believed that they were following the edicts of the Almighty. I told him that historically, no god, be it Christian, Muslim, Jewish, is guiltless in terms of evil committed in his or her name.
I told him that he should serve his God, revel in his faith, love all people. But I cautioned him not to feel superior or anointed to a degree where he considers himself ordained to make judgments or cast blame. That’s when he tried to give me my recycling back.
After I calmed him down, and placed my cans and bottles in the back seat of his rental car, he backed out of his parking space. Before he pulled away, he rolled down his window and said, “There is no gray, when it comes to the word of God, only black and white. You are either in his graces or not.”
Not wanting to prolong the argument and risk having to do my own recycling, yet unable and unwilling to allow him the last word I said, “I love you.”
He looked at me closely, as if trying to gauge my sincerity. Satisfied, he said, “God Bless,” and drove away.
As I watched him head off, I remembered what my old man used to say – “Never talk politics with friends or religion with strangers.”
By definition, faith and politics are comprised, in a large part, of opinions. I think it is encouraging when others live the life of their beliefs.
Personally I just can’t seem to totally buy into one belief or party at the exclusion of all others.
I do know that love, forgiveness and generosity are the prevailing tenets of all faiths. And I also know that any evil or unkindness committed in the name of any god is only the bastardized distortion of zealots.
And with complete faith and conviction I can say, taking the time to hear the story of a stranger’s journey is a small price to pay for the luxury of not having to recycle S
Biff America can be seen on RSN television, heard on KOA radio, and read in this and other fine newspapers. He is taking his annual fall sabbatical. Until he returns, we are re-running some of his favorite columns.
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