I sat on the porch soaking in the warmish temperatures while the kids rode their bikes back and forth, back and forth. It was the best we could do the last weekend of February, and we desperately needed relief from cabin fever.
Patches of grass peeked through the mounds of snow, a sight we thought we might not see again until the calendar officially said “spring.” With my nose in a book, I barely noticed the cars passing by. We live on a busy-ish street on a lane that accesses a business behind our house, so traffic is normal.
A van with a glaring advertisement on the side whipped into our lane and parked. The driver hopped out and immediately began shouting at me about the delicious meat they were selling and how they’d just struck a deal with a Mr. Frank down the street and do we eat beef and would I be interested in seeing some steaks?
My protests went unheard as a second man got out of the van. They opened the back and each lifted a box of meat. I watched amused as they tried to find a way to the porch that didn’t involve walking through a yard full of snow. To their credit, they forged ahead, making witty comments about the snow.
They dropped two boxes on the porch while I sat on the glider, still holding my book open while the kids stood frozen in place. The second man introduced himself while the first man retreated to the van and made calls on his cell phone. I shook his hand but didn’t offer my name because I didn’t want this to get personal.
He handed me a brochure and said to not worry about the prices because he was like Monty Hall. (Would someone my age even know who Monty Hall is? He’s lucky I watched a lot of old game shows as a kid.) Then he made me promise that if we made a deal I wouldn’t tell my neighbors what I paid for this delicious meat.
He opened a box of steaks and showed me the color of them, told me how his “lady” makes meatloaf out of the burgers but he just cooks burgers because he’s lazy in the kitchen. He pointed out the date the steaks were packed and slammed grocery stores for their labeling practices. He used the words “all natural” numerous times, as if to convince me of the meat’s quality. The same meat that was riding around in the back of a van.
He asked if we had an extra freezer and while we do, it doesn’t work right now so I told him “no.” He offered me one for free.
When he finished his presentation, he asked how the meat looked, and while I couldn’t deny the pleasing appearance of the beef, we honestly don’t have the money to buy a freezer full of meat right now. I told him so. He looked insulted. “You mean if I sell you $300 worth of meat for $150, you can’t help me out?” No, I couldn’t. $150 pays the bills right now.
He packed up his boxes, called his associate over, and they tromped through the snow with one open box of beef and an unopened box of chicken. They offered a half-hearted “have a good day” as they left.
I breathed a sigh of relief and told my kids that if anyone ever approached them like that and I wasn’t outside that they needed to come get me. Right away. I didn’t want to scare them because I don’t believe life should be lived in fear, but I wanted them to know that not everyone who seems friendly is friendly.
Sometimes, I think we try to sell the Gospel like this.
We look around us at the people in our path, and we try to find a willing
victim customer. There, that person’s not wearing a cross or I’ve seen them working in the yard on Sundays or I’ve heard them swear. They need Jesus, and I have Jesus, so I will offer them the best gift ever.
I agree that people need Jesus. I do. Every day. That hasn’t stopped because I call myself a Christian. I still do un-Christian things and rely on the grace of His love and another day.
And I agree that we have good news to tell people. It’s the best news there is. But somewhere along the way, it’s become more like a sales pitch.
We barge into someone’s space and plunk down a box of good news. We open it up and ask leading questions that have them nodding. We’re slick and polished, but we’re also in a hurry because the world is dying and we’ve got to sell this Gospel before it all goes to hell.
We make promises God can’t keep.
And we walk away stunned when our offer is rejected.
Why wouldn’t someone want this good news?
The hard part is that I don’t have any answers. I have no earthly idea why some people choose Jesus and some people don’t. And I have no idea the best way to share this good news so that people will respond.
What I do know is that I wouldn’t buy steak from a guy in a van unless I knew personally someone else who had. And I wouldn’t spend what I didn’t have. The truth is, if I’d had the money to buy the meat, I still would have had to get our freezer fixed to make room for it. That doesn’t mean I don’t like meat or don’t want a deal. It just means I have some business to take care of first.
Maybe that’s how it is with the Gospel.
For some, maybe there’s some business to take care of first. Maybe they’ll ask around and find others they trust who know this Jesus. Maybe nothing will ever convince them that the news is actually as good as it sounds.
Maybe instead of trying to sell strangers a box of steaks, we need to take it slow. Get to know them. Let them see how we live. Grill out and let them smell the steak cooking over hot coals. Invite them over for a meal, without any thought to whether they’ll buy the meat we’re so ecstatic about, just because we think they matter.
Maybe we leave people with love, instead of fear.
Because I’d hate for someone to have to tell their kids not to talk to me because I tried to sell them Jesus.
Jesus got my attention when I was 19 and brokenhearted. Lonely. Miserable. I was looking for Him but was too afraid to tell anyone or ask if they knew the way.
He broke through those fears with a whisper in my heart I was sure everyone in the room could hear.
All that matters is what I think of you.
I didn’t answer an altar call. In fact, in the years that followed that internal decision to live for Him, I felt guilty that I hadn’t ever walked an aisle and publicly proclaimed my conversion. I was baptized, yes, but it was not in a church. It happened in a pond and I was surrounded by family and a few close friends. I don’t have a certificate to prove it. Maybe by some standards my conversion is invalid, but I’ve felt the changes over time. I’ve heard His voice, felt His leading, and when I look back on the journey, not once did Jesus ever sell Himself to me.
He simply said, Come. Let’s walk.
And I did.