Saturday, June 28, 2008

Who is the Customer?

I recently went on the Junior High summer camp trip in beautiful Malibu, California. It was so nice and refreshing to be near the beach and feel the cool ocean breeze. I also really loved hanging out with junior high kids again. They are wild, crazy and just fun to be around. Oh, and man can they have fun worshiping God! Jumping, shouting, singing to the top of their lungs....My favorite time was doing Crowder's tune, "We Won't Be Quiet" and having them just shout it out! Like Crowder, I used a megaphone on that song and it was fantastic!

As fun as the trip was, there was one thing that I really wrestled with. I will borrow Bill Hybel's term "holy discontent," to describe the uneasiness that I had through out the week. I came to the realization that sometimes Christian adults can be rather ruthless. Now I am the first to admit that kids (especially Jher's) need discipline. However, what approach do you take with kids who have had no exposure to the church and with Jesus? We are talking about kids who come from broken homes and who have little or no positive influence in their lives at all. Yet, we expect even these kids to be polite and respectful. Maybe just maybe they don't know what that looks like. Maybe we are the only example of that they will ever see. Somehow, yelling at kids and forcing them to behave might not be the best approach.

I think of Jesus with the woman at the well. He had such a marvelous way of exposing her sin yet affirming her at the same time. He even plays dumb a little bit in order not to come across as superior. Jesus found a way to speak the truth in love. I think that we can do the same it just takes a few things to get there. It would require us to slow down and be patient, kind, caring, and altogether interested in the human beings we come in contact with. Jesus wasn't in a hurry, but rather he stopped to sit with this woman. Through His words and actions, He communicated to her that she was the most important thing to Him at that moment. Jesus gave her His full undivided attention. This is what it means to love your neighbor - something I willingly admit that I am not good at.

So who is the customer? Think about when you go into a place like starbucks or a restaurant. We naturally expect to be served. And don't just serve me but, I want service with a smile. Oh and I want my coffee in 12.045 seconds. But when it comes to relationships and more specifically interactions with non-believers, a lot of times this attitude of service is not present. Not that Christianity is a product to be sold, but we have a job to present this hope we have in Christ as something that is freeing, not burdensome. How are junior high kids ever going to know a better life if they are constantly talked down to and told to follow a certain set of rules? After all, they are the customers. People are customers who are looking for something to follow and they will choose whatever option they think is best. What can we offer them? Grace and freedom and hope and peace and rest from the burdens of life through Jesus Christ. I think before we can expect someone to behave like a Christian they must first need to understand the good. They need to first know what we are for, rather than what we are against. Consider what Jesus' says in Matthew 23 to the religious people of His day. May we never fall into this trap!

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.c

15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides!

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