Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Salvation in the Soup Line

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, ..." 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

I was hungry and in a hurry. My eight-year-old son was doing his best Energizer Bunny impersonation, while my weary body, on the other hand, was ripe for a recharge. I wasn’t interested in small talk. I just wanted food – fast. But as we waited for my soup at the local deli, a stranger kept eyeing me curiously. At first, I kept my head down and tried to ignore his gaze. Finally, I glanced up and offered a strained smile.

“I see you voted today,” he said, spying the conspicuous “I Voted” sticker on my lapel.

“Oh, great,” I thought. “This is worse than small talk. This guy wants to discuss politics!”

“They were holding early voting at the library today,” I replied politely, hoping to put an end to the subject.

Instead, he launched into a diatribe about the candidates. Before I knew it I had been sucked into a spirited discussion about troops, terrorism, and the terrible state of society.

Finally, he said, “I just think that if we all meditated more and focused on peaceful thoughts that would help everyone get along a lot better.”

I sensed an opportunity.

“Well, if you look at history, our problems escalated when this country began to take God out of the equation,” I countered.

“Hmmm… what do you mean by that?” he said with genuine interest.

With the deli staff as my captive audience, I explained how moral absolutes originated with our Creator, which led to a fairly deep exploration of the spiritual. It ended with me inviting my new friend to church.

“If your church discusses these types of issues, I just might visit,” he said. 

Just then a man standing nearby piped up, “What church are you talking about? Maybe I’ll come, too."

I shudder when I consider how many soup-line experiences I’ve probably missed over the years because I’ve been more concerned about the soup than the souls of those around me. As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility “to give the reason for the hope” (1 Peter 3:15) that is ours in Him. Jesus was a Master at weaving the extraordinary into everyday experiences. Here are a few ways we can move closer to His example:

  • Live deliberately. Jesus was not unconcerned with immediate needs; however, he was always driven by His Father’s agenda. A consistently chaotic schedule drowns out the subtle promptings of the Holy Spirit and causes us to view others simply as barriers to our productivity.
  • Confront the controversial. Jesus boldly tackled sensitive subjects, including legalism and adultery, but always with the “gentleness and respect” also mentioned in 1 Peter 3. Rather than cower from confrontation, we can bring truth and light into potentially divisive discussions by listening, asking insightful questions and sharing the transforming work God has done in our own lives.
  • Reserve judgment. Tax collectors, poor fishermen, prostitutes … Jesus saw past society’s labels and straight to people’s need. His free gift of salvation is for everyone. We are His conduit for extending the invitation.

Although I haven’t yet spotted my deli friends at church, I trust God will use my words to make a difference.

“My word … will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

Copyright © Melinda Means, used with permission.

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