Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One McDonald's Burger, Please - And Seasoned With Grace Too

I was standing in line at Bras Basah McDonalds', when suddenly I saw a rather well-dressed guy. He looked quite young, about twenty-two or three. And his blue shirt was classic white-collar. Thing is, he looked like he was in a hurry, so I guessed he was some SMU student rushing for a night lecture.

Then, he went up to the counter, and panting, opened his mouth: "HELLO! I WANT A CHICKEN BURGER!"

Heads started turning at this voice. No, he wasn't one of those loud Chinese nationals (sorry for the stereotyping...), but your average Singaporean. Average in all aspects except for his voice. Come to think of it, even a loud Chinese national didn't speak in the kind of tone that he addressed the staff.

It wasn't an outrightly rude voice, but he seemed very caught up in his own hurry. A bit overly assertive. The counter staff chuckled in mild embarrassment, probably more for the customer.

"I'm sorry, Sir, that would take a few min - "

"OKAY. THEN I WANT A TEXAS BURGER."

More heads turned. I half-amusedly watched the spectacle, while a couple of guys sitting nearby paused their munching, looking up in surprise at the loudspeaker of a person.

"Okay Sir. Please wait."

"HURRY UP. I'M LATE FOR CHURCH!"

And that got my attention. I felt quite dismayed by his behaviour, and realised that I had to do something to 'neutralize' this dangerous situation. With that in mind, I ordered my burger, smiling and asking the staff, "Hi, could I order a Texas Chicken Burger please? Thank you!"

Then I moved aside to wait... and saw Mr. Loud at my left. I moved over to his left, and as we waited, I was wondering what to do next. After a few seconds, I prayed in my heart and decided to make small talk with him.

"Ah, so you go to church?"

He turned and looked at me. "YES. I'M GOING FOR RICA. YOU KNOW WHAT RICA IS? RITE OF INITIATION OF CHRISTIAN ADULTS."

Ah. That R.I.C.A programme. I know it's one of the Catholic churches that I pass by everyday to work.

"AND WHAT ABOUT YOU? YOU GO TO CHURCH TOO?"

I looked at his ear to see if he was wearing any hearing-aid. Nothing in his ear.

"Yup, I do."

"I SEE. WHICH CHURCH DO YOU GO TO?"

"Hope."

"HOPE? I'VE HEARD OF IT." His eyes opened, and simultaneously, a few drops of saliva splattered onto my face. I grimaced and quietly wiped the saliva off. But he didn't notice. "I'VE BEEN THERE ONCE BEFORE. THE PASTOR THERE ALWAYS CONDEMN CATHOLICS, THIS CHURCH, THAT CHURCH. VERY CONDEMNING."

"Oh I see... hmm... I don't remember the pastor saying anything like that..." (I wanted to ask him whether he had the right church.)

"YES. PREACHING THE LAW, NOT THE GOSPEL OF GRACE. YOU KNOW WHAT GRACE IS RIGHT? TELL ME, DOES YOUR CHURCH PREACH THE GOSPEL OF GRACE OR THE LAW OF MOSES?"

Whoa. I quickly prayed for a wise answer, and carefully answered, "Hmm... my church preaches standard orthodox Christian doctrine. We obey the law because of -"

"NO, YOU SEE, WE ARE NOT UNDER LAW BUT UNDER GRACE! PASTOR PRINCE SAID THAT WE ARE NOT UNDER LAW, BUT UNDER GRACE." he said very forcefully.

I wondered what to say next, 'cos I didn't want to get into any argument. So I just continued listening patiently, wondering what would Jesus do in this situation.

"Oh, you're from New Creation Church then?"

"NO, I'M NOT. WE HAD SOME FIGHT - "

" - Sir, your burger is ready."

I looked at him walk off, and then looked at the staff. We both grinned embarrassedly at one another. I decided to thank the staff with a smile, with extra courtesy to soothe their nerves, and then paused in mid-stride as I went off.

What could I do to 'neutralize' the ugliness of the situation?

I turned around and asked the staff again for a cup of water. He quickly obliged... and as I took the cup, I thanked him again, and said, "Gee. That was ... quite an interesting guy." The staff grinned sympathetically. "I, uh... I'm from a different church, you see. Hee." And I think he kind of understood what I was trying to say. That not all Christians are that ugly.

As I walked out, Colossians 4:5-6 came to mind:
5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace [gracious], seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.


Now as I sit here typing, I feel really grateful that I had taken the time to discuss with God my plans for dinner. And I see that it wasn't mere coincidence that I was there with Mr Loud. I do feel thankful that God has made me into a gentler and more considerate person, that I could be salt and light at the right time, to 'neutralize' the ugly behaviour of the other person.

No, I'm not condemning the other person. But it's really an interesting story and food for thought. Actually, I was quite amused by the irony of the entire incident. It's so ironic that there are people who preach the gospel of God's grace so dogmatically that they do not show grace to anyone else who does not share our own views.

Shouldn't the gospel of God's grace even - or especially - transform the way we speak to others? "Let your conversation always be full of grace..."

But I also felt very thankful and grateful that God had used me that day to present a very different view: gentle, courteous and treating the staff with respect and thankfulness.

I feel very grateful, because, actually, I was that Mr. Loud last time. I remember forcefully telling a couple of sisters from a Christian campus parachurch organization, back in my first year, about the disadvantages of a parachurch. And they looked so uncomfortable! Oh God.

=) I think some learning points that I took home from this experience are:

1. If you involve God in your daily decisions, consulting His input even in something as mundane as a meal, He can really lead you into a very exciting situation for Him to use you! So let the Holy Spirit lead you daily, seek His will in ALL that you do, and He will direct your paths! That's why the Spirit-led life is never ever boring!

2. Always let your conversation be full of grace, seasoned with salt. Whether you speak to the boss, or to the auntie, one hallmark of a salt-and-light Christian is the gentleness and kindness in which you treat others. We may be called to be the head and not the tail, but we are called to be completely gentle and humble. To be servants of everyone wherever we go. Just like Jesus, our Servant King.

3. It really helps to practice being godly even in the very ordinary day-to-day living. Then when the crunch time comes, you can have the credibility to stand up and speak up in the moment of crisis.

4. It is so important to show grace, not just talk about it.

5 comments:

Huanyan said...

that's some interesting experience you had. i just found it ironic that he was talking about grace and yet acting and saying the things he said...

yeu@nn said...

haha yah... very ironic... to be honest, i was wondering whether i shld have been more direct with him: "For someone who preaches so much about grace, you seem really ungracious."

but i'm not sure if that wld have helped...

Weizhu said...

I'm proud of you, bro!

Huanyan said...

I would have done that if I were you...

yeu@nn said...

Haha... thanks Weizhu for your affirmation! God helped me do the right thing...

Haha! Yes, Huanyan, I know u would have... it's a tough thing sometimes to have the gift of prophecy, but feeling scared to speak directly (forthtelling) when needed...