Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pharisees

I was at a kitchen tools convention in Chicago for the last few days.

I was rooming with a good friend of mine. G was raised Catholic, but has had many doubts in the last few years. She is struggling with her faith.

So, at lunch one day, we were sitting with a table full of consultants from Ohio. They were a pretty friendly bunch. We chatted a bit, introduced ourselves, compared notes on the conference so far. At one point, I got up to use the restroom. When I came back, G said to me,

"You missed saying grace."

No problem. I bowed my head and said a little prayer of thanks, silently, and started eating my salad.

Throughout the conversation over lunch, the woman next to G became increasing rude and hostile towards us. If we tried to make conversation with her, she was cold and condescending. Finally, we just quit bothering and talked with the woman next to me, instead.

After lunch, G said to me:

"That is why I think Christians are such hypocrites. That girl made a big fuss about saying grace, and then was rude for the rest of the meal."

At which point I was tempted to go find that girl and tell her how much damage her rudeness had just caused. In fact, when I saw her later, in a workshop, I sat and prayed about whether I should approach her. I would have told her that, as a Christian, she needs to be sensitive to the effect she has on others. Being openly rude after you just made a big production about prayer is not going to help bring about the kingdom. And since it happens that my friends faith is already being tested, she just added to her struggle.

I didn't approach her, in the end, because I felt like she wouldn't have been able to hear what I was saying.

But I did take the opportunity to share with G about the fact that all of us, including those of us who profess to be Christians, are flawed people. None of us are perfect. I also shared why confession is such an amazing process. She listened intently as I described it, and was surprised by how loving an act it is, after spending years thinking of it as a kind of intrusion.

In the end, I will try and pray for that woman at the table. And for my friend, who is truly one of the most generous and loving people I know. And for all who do not yet know Jesus.

And I am once again reminded that being a Christian carries huge responsibilities. When we are open about our faith, we must also accept the fact that we are ambassadors for the Kingdom. I pray every day that I can share the light of God with those I encounter. And when I fail, I pray I have the courage to confess it.

5 comments:

Mary Beth said...

so...I don't get it. She was rude because you missed grace?

Give me a break!

Anonymous said...

great thoughts, well put. My father used to tell me that Christ couldn't pick his friends and perhaps I should look to Him instead of those I deemed to be hypocrites when judging Him. The short version of which was "it's better to go to church with hypocrites than to hell with them.
'

Mom put it more simply just saying that the only person who could keep me out of heaven was me...

Great advice, but your thoughts are more important. I don't want to be the hypocrite that keeps others from the peace I've been granted!
Thanks for the reminder Rachel!

Rachel's Big Dunk said...

Hey MB,

I really have no idea why she was rude. Might have been that I missed grace. Might have been because I crossed myself when I did say it silently to myself. (Anti-Catholic, perhaps?)

Or it just might have been because she thought my friend and I were goofballs. (We are.)

We were asking about a local Cincinnati specialty called Cincinnati chili. It involves copious amounts of chili, spaghetti noodles and cheese on a plate. Apparently it is addictive and very unique to Cincinnati. Since we are going to our next conference there, I was asking her about it. Her response was extremely rude, so I am not sure what the problem was.

In the end, whatever the reason was was kind of unimportant. What was terrible was that she had made such a big deal about saying grace and THEN was hostile and condescending.

Anon. I LOVE the quotes about hypocrites. I will keep those in my back pocket for future reference, LOL.

I realize that my friend is on her own journey with God. And you are right that something like this incident should not be enough to keep someone from Him. And oddly, I think it was a springboard to a great conversation which may have done much more good than the harm that the incident itself did. But I think, as Christians, we must always be aware that we are, rightly or wrongly, inviting scrutiny... especially by people struggling with their own faiths.

God, today, let me be a conduit for your light.

Lauralew said...

hi Rachel, just surfing and found your blog. Great!

Just some thoughts--my spouse and I recently had to rent out our home for a couple of years. We rented to a pastor and his wife, who also called herself a pastor. After they skipped out on thousands of dollars of rent, we came home to find a destroyed driveway, jelly smeared on our kitchen cabinets, window glass painted over, smashed window screens, the grass not mowed in two years, etc, etc. I Googled the pastor and found an entire page of lawsuits due to the same behavior.

What you said about being a Christian carrying such a huge responsibility is SO right. My husband and I are thankful we already are believers and were not looking for a loving witness to point us to the way. My struggle at present is to have a forgiving heart.

I have written a reflection on how rude and mean Christians can be to each other. I need to dig it up and post it on my blog. But yours is great! Thanks!

Rachel's Big Dunk said...

Hi Laura,

Welcome to the Big Dunk! It is a pleasure to have you. (I love when people just stumble on by.... mostly because that is how I usually happen on my favorite blogs!)

What a terrible story about your tenants. Seems like there is likely to be much gnashing of teeth for those two. But in the mean time, prayers for your ability to forgive. I can only imagine how violated you must have felt.

In the Baptismal covenant of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer it says:

Celebrant- Will you proclaim by word and example the Good
News of God in Christ?

People- I will, with God's help.

Celebrant- Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
your neighbor as yourself?

People- I will, with God's help.


By word AND EXAMPLE...

And don't you love the response of the people? "I will with God's help." Because it is so true that left to our own devices, we are likely to screw this up!

Thanks again for your comments, Laura. And Welcome!