Friday I was an unwitting participant in an object lesson that revealed how my wife, Janet, works to advance the Kingdom of God and I work to advance the kingdom of me.
That afternoon we were riding our tandem on the out–bound leg of our regular bicycle route when we passed two female cyclists slowly making their way up a short rise.
One was riding slowly, obviously waiting for her companion who was dismounted and walking her bike up the hill. Being the wiseacre I am, I often chide people who walk their bicycle up hills by calling out, “You’ll never grow up to be big and strong walking your bike uphill.” But fortunately this time I didn’t.
We reached the turnaround and started back toward home. Shortly we came on the two women again and this time both were walking their bikes. It dawned on me the reason they are walking could be because of a mechanical problem and not fatigue. So we slowed down and I asked the first woman if they had a problem with their bike.
She replied that her friend did have a problem. Janet and I rode up to the second woman and stopped. I asked what the problem was and she explained that her rear tire had a flat and she did not have a spare.
That’s an easy problem to fix, particularly since I always travel with two spare tubes. I told her she could have one of our spares and asked Janet to retrieve it from the pouch under her bike seat. While this was going on, the woman said that she was reluctant to take our tube since she had no way to repay us.
This is the point where I failed as a Christian yet again. (I could tell you the story of Wegman’s, followed a couple of years later by ACE Hardware, but I promised to keep this short.) Feeling really good about myself and my generosity, I told her that all she had to do was say “thanks” and that was payment enough.
Meanwhile, Janet came up with the spare and handed it to the woman who assured us she could change the tube and had a pump to air up the tire. Before we started off the woman again thanked us and Janet said, “You can’t call yourself a disciple if you don’t disciple others.”
And just like that I knew I’d failed again.
Contrast the two responses to the woman’s gratitude. Mine was a pompous, self–satisfied response that focused the action on me: Generous bestower of a bicycle tube. When that should not have been the case at all. Christians act like Christians because if we are saved and if we are filled with the Holy Sprit we are impelled to “Do unto others…” We are not charitable to others because we are basically “nice people.” We do it because that is our mission and I failed utterly to communicate that. As far as that woman was concerned Janet and I were a random act of kindness, traveling on a tandem, origin unknown.
Don’t get me wrong, when one is acting as a Christian you don’t have to make a big production out of it every time you do a good deed. There is no need to have an impromptu prayer meeting or ask them to wait until you can go to the car and retrieve the snake for a brief ceremony.
All that is required for Kingdom building is to let them know they were helped in a small way by an anonymous Christian trying to do God’s work and the thanks belongs to Him.
You can phrase it how you wish. I’m leaning toward what the centurion said in Matthew 8:9, “I am a man under authority…” and adding I am commanded to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. Possibly ending by thanking them for giving me the opportunity to be of service. I may drop this since I don’t want to fall into one of those endless loops of “thank you,” “no, thank you” and so forth.
Short, simple and I hope memorable. Enough so that the next time I have the opportunity I will remember to do it, whether or not Janet is along.