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.