Tacos and an Oil Change,
This is my favorite newsletter article from a few years ago. I offer it again, because perhaps we need to be reminded, now more than ever, what it means to live for the Kingdom of God and not for ourselves.
From our earliest days of education we are taught to seek the right answer. Somebody is right and somebody is wrong. The person who was right is the winner and the person who was wrong is the looser. All we really need is to understand the rules and parameters of the test and then we can set about finding a way to win. As we grow up and are taught to have a sense of morality we apply the same formula. This is how civil society is formed and this is how we progress. This system works well in our world.
We make hundreds of these decisions a day. Most of them we make without even considering them. We believe we know what is right and what is moral. We believe we know how to win. We say things like sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but really none of us like to lose. If we think that our loss was due to a breaking of the rules or immorality we are outraged. We cry foul and rightly so. You may be thinking of a time when you were cheated and that feeling of outrage may be coming back. This seems to be part of our human nature. Remember as a child when we would line up with our classmates and someone would “cut line.” We knew this was wrong and we felt compelled to tell others or to do something about it. This still happens. For instance, have you ever been in a long checkout line at a store and another cashier opens their line. The people behind you get to move over there and checkout before you do, even though you have been waiting longer. I am often annoyed at this, but when it is I at the back of the line and I get to move over to a new line, I feel no annoyance. I feel like a Winner!
Herein lies the problem. We have allowed our winner/ looser system of decision making to become all about us. We are missing something. Fortunately, God has given us an additional consideration. It is called love. Love, that word we use to describe our relationship with everything from our spouses to our favorite food. We may have missed what Jesus meant when he called us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Let me share an example.
A few years ago, my Daughter (Abby) and I were running errands. One of my chores that day was to get the oil changed. I was in a hurry and I also needed to feed Abby. So I remembered that I had a gift card to Taco Bell (Abby’s favorite). I also remembered that I had a coupon to Valvoline right next to Taco Bell in Franklin. I loaded up Abby and we set off for Franklin. I explained to her that we would drive through Taco Bell and eat our tacos while we got our oil changed, because I was short on time. WINNER! As we got closer Abby spoke up. She said, “It’s weird to eat in front of people who are working.” I responded with a little bit of knowledge that she could not have known at her age. I said, “It’s Ok. We are paying those guys. They won’t care.” Abby said, “It is still weird and it makes me feel bad.” She got me thinking.
Here I was trying to explain the rules. We are short on time. We need lunch and an oil change. We have gift cards and coupons. This is a winning decision. She however was trying to get me to understand what Jesus had taught us. She was trying to get me to consider the workers at Valvoline. She shook me to the core. Needless to say we ate at Taco Bell and then went to Valvoline.
We all need a reminder that more important than our win is the love we show others. This is what it means to be a disciple. Sometimes it means we loose in the game the world has taught us, but it also means we win in the world we desire. The Kingdom of God is about community and love not about winning. Often I turn on the news and hear politicians arguing over what is right and what is wrong. They are looking for a winner. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to look for the Kingdom of God. We are called to look for love and community formed around God. Jesus certainly was not the winner as he was arrested, beaten, and crucified. And yet the Good News is that at the resurrection he offered us all a new way to win.
So my hope for us is that we might begin to consider our actions from the big decisions to the little life plans we make every day, not from a winner/ looser scenario based on ourselves, but from a Kingdom perspective that seeks to create a loving community that considers the other people we affect. In this way we will be bringing about the Kingdom of God. In doing so I am sure we will encounter God anew as I did with Abby over tacos and an oil change.
Pastor Jimmy Hendricks