Excellent Behavior – Lunch & Theology 101

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. {1Pe 2:12 NASB}

I’m a busy guy, and that certainly doesn’t stop when I’m at work.  Some of my associates, both co-workers and customers, poke fun at me for “being a go getter” and “never slowing down”.  In fact, sometimes it annoys them.  In a missionary setting, it becomes a tough balance.  You certainly don’t want to be known as lazy, but you also don’t want to alienate you mission field by making them feel you are “showing them up”.

Nonetheless, I’m busy.  Lunch, therefore, becomes a valuable personal time.  When you’re up early and still looking at a long day, a time to sit, eat, and rest can be a welcome respite during the day.  No sooner had I grabbed my lunch box than did my phone ring.  “Do you have lunch plans” asked one of the senior engineers on the other end of the call.  “Not really.  I haven’t had a chance to make plans yet.”

“Come have lunch with us, we’d like to talk to you”.  I knew I was getting into something, but I only had a rough idea.  That rough idea was that we were going to discuss something to do with another engineer I’ll call “P”.  P might be one of the most brilliant engineers I’ve ever worked with.  He’s smart, understands the big picture of his machines, and has a wide array of talents.  Unfortunately, P also has lived a life of complete rebellion against God.  On his own at a young age, P learned early to chase women, love money, drink heavily, and party hard.  Now in his late 50s, that mentality has not changed much.  So, riding home from his favorite bar the previous weekend, P lost control of his motorcycle, crashed, and landed his unhelmeted head squarely on the concrete sidewalk.  He’s been in a coma and on life support ever since.

When you work in a shop, you become close with the guys you work beside.  Often maintenance crews are isolated from the “real business” and relegated to back rooms and basements.  One of my early mentors once told me “No one who works here has any idea what you do except the guys in this shop.  To everyone else, you’re a business expense that had better be worth it.  To us, you’re a part of the team that helps all of us stay employed.  Act accordingly.”  Valuable words.  I’ve never forgotten them.

For the guy in P’s shop, they’ve all known each other for over 10 years.  They’ve hunted and fished together, watched each other’s kids grow up, been to each other’s houses.  They’ve shared meals and holidays together, told each other about their lives, and have spent more time around one another than they’ve spent with almost anyone else.  It’s a brotherhood.  Maybe even a family.  Losing someone like that in your life, even if everyone else thinks they’re “just a co-worker”, is like losing a family member.  And for the guys P left behind… it showed.

So, I sat down for lunch among the forlorn crew.  Stories of P floating around the room.  Questions of if his wife needed anything, if anyone had heard anything new.  Mind you, I’m a contractor in this situation.  I have a relationship with all of these guys, but I’m not really on “the inside.”  So they respect me, I belong, but I’m more of a family friend or neighbor, not a brother in the family.

Almost immediately came the question “Hey Jason, you’re a youth pastor, right?”  I knew the moment had arrived.  Like a lot of people hurting and scared, these guys were looking for answers.  Like a lot of people looking for answers, these guys were looking to a “clergyman.”  I responded, “Well, not exactly but I’m about as close to that as my church will ever get.”  It wasn’t a stretch.  We don’t see the need to have pastors for particular people groups.

Seemingly satisfied with that answer, I suddenly became the center of attention.  These men wanted answers.  “Why would God allow something like that to happen to P?”  “If all churches seem to want is money, how can they offer any answers to something like this?”  “What happens to P’s soul if he stays on life support?”  Before I knew it, I found myself the teacher in a classroom full of eager students; Theology 101.

I managed to preach the whole Gospel, but it had to come out in dribs and drabs.  We talked a little about sin, then a little about grace, then a little about the holiness of God, and then a little about atonement, etc. Not how I drew it up, but any opportunity to present the full gospel in ANY way is a great victory.  Those men heard the truth, and I pray it has an impact.

One of the men asked if he “was allowed” to attend my church.  How sad of a question is that?  His only experience with “church” has been his Catholic upbringing and neighbors who attend an entertainment complex that made it seem to him that if he didn’t give enough money, he wasn’t welcome.  I knew well the church building his neighbors attended and I made it very clear to him that I wouldn’t attend there.  I assured him (well… maybe “assure” isn’t the right word) that if he came to my church, he’d hear from the Bible and learn what it said; and we couldn’t care less about his money.  That declaration, for reasons I can’t explain, seemed a comfort to him.  It seems that the false doctrine of required tithing of 10% to your church is little comfort in times of tumult and personal chaos.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯  Who knew?!

(Note: I’m NOT against giving, I would teach that all believers should give freely, sacrificially, and cheerfully to their local body.)

The best part about the experience was that I didn’t ask for the opportunity; it just fell into my lap.  It’s proof positive that God provides the stage, directs the scene, and prepares the actor.  We don’t need contrived and awkward schemes to tell people about Jesus.  Simply, we need to be faithful.  Faithful to keep our behavior excellent so that they’ll glorify God should the day come that God saves them, faithful to answer the bell when it tolls for us.  It is God who gives the strength, and the words.  We simply have to give way to Him.

I feel bad for P, by the way.  My prayer is that God would bring him safely through his coma and use the whole experience to wake him to the spiritual realities in his life.  I plan to be a part of his life, even if he never comes back to work.  Perhaps I can write about hospital visits and how God may expand my mission field in the future.  In fact, I hope that I have something exciting to write about.  But until then, I’ll pray.  Join me.   As Pastor Jimmy always reminds me “While there is breath, there is hope.”

I hope to tell P about that hope, and why it is indeed HOPE, soon.

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