So I'm now driving instead of riding the bus, and I remember that, when I had a car in St. Louis, I would use my car to be charitable to others. So I've been praying for such opportunities to present themselves and not much has happened--a friend here and there, but nothing that explicitly furthered the Gospel.
I was very tired Tuesday evening and wanting very much to go straight home. But, for some odd reason, I stuck around at the Garden (the eatery we have beside our skatepark at the church) until closing and helped chain up the tables, etc. Then, as I was preparing to actually drive home, I just sat in my car for a couple of minutes.
Then I saw a woman and her children try to chase down the bus. I thought that the bus driver had seen them and was waiting for them. I also thought that the person boarding the bus would let the driver know that there were people desparately approaching. I don't know what happened, but the bus drove on.
Well, I thought, I would like to give them a ride, but I don't know if they will let me. I am a complete stranger, after all. And, besides, the next bus is only a twenty minute wait, if that (perhaps this bus was running late, which is why it didn't wait). So I got out of my car to hand the mother three Gospel Tracts and to survey the prospects for assistance. When I did, I commented that they wouldn't be moving anytime soon, referring to the wait for the bus, and she responded by saying that that bus would only get them so close to their destination--and she didn't bring enough bus fare for them to get the rest of the way home. Well, now I know why I was held up!
So I cleaned out my car (yes, I am a bit disorganized), and they all piled in. As we drove, we talked about church, about her ex-husband (from whose house she was picking up the children) who doesn't go to church, and about going to church in general. I felt the Lord telling me to ask her if she considered herself to be a good person, but I was a bit uncomfortable with that route, fearing that she might be offended. But then she said that she tells her ex that his life would be much better if he went to church. Uh-oh. False gospel.
"[Christianity] works like this: would you consider yourself to be a good person?"
"Can I ask you a few questions to see if that is so?"
"Question #1: have you ever told a lie?"
"What does that make you if you tell a lie."
"I don't know--a sinner?"
"What kind of a sinner, though: if I told you a lie, what would you call me?"
"A sinner, I guess? I don't really know."
"Well, the answer I'm looking for starts with 'l' and it rhymes with 'fire.'"
"Oh, a liar."
"A liar, correct. Question #2: Have you ever stolen anything?"
"I can't believe you--you just told me that you're a liar."
"But I've never stolen anything--never!"
"Okay, okay. Well, when I was a kid, my mom told me that I couldn't have some candy; I waited till she wasn't looking, and I took it anyway: what does that make me?"
"No, Steelers are from Pittsburgh: try again."
"I don't know."
"Starts with 't' and rhymes with 'chief.'"
"Oh, a thief."
"That's correct. Question #3: have you ever hated anyone?"
"What does that make you if you hate someone?"
"No, that's the ghetto answer." <--somehow, this joke is not as funny here in St Pete as it was in St Louis. The uproar of laughter that I got there is woefully lacking here. Mostly, I get blank stares or insulted looks. May have to change up.
"So what is it then--I don't know."
"A murderer? How is that?"
"Because the issue is not how much harm we do to the other person, but how angry God will be because we take the breath that He gives us and use it to mistreat our fellow man. That's why 1 John 3:15 says, 'Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.'"
"And Jesus said, in Matthew 5, that if you call someone mean names, you'll get the same punishment as a murderer on Judgment Day."
"I never knew that."
By this time, I realized that I had forgotten to introduce myself. I did and proceeded to explain the Gospel to her, focusing on the love of God for guilty sinners. The neat thing is that right behind me, her son said, "That sounds like this verse in the Bible: 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
"Exactly!" I responded with much delight. I then explained that Jesus didn't promise to give us a better life, but eternal life; and that Jesus Himself had suffered many things of many people even though He Himself had never sinned.
When we arrived at her house, I gave her the $15 in my wallet, as she had mentioned needing to purchase groceries. Now I understood why the Lord had made me go to the bank while I was waiting for my food instead of just putting it on my tab. I was glad to be "rich in good works" that day, as the Lord has commanded for those who are "rich in this world" (1 Timothy 6:17-19). May God grant me this heart always.