I’m waiting in line at Wendy’s. The car in front of me must have ordered the entire left side of the menu because this is taking forever. Off to the side there are three freezers. An employee, young woman in her twenties, clipboard in hand, unlocks the freezer. She props open the door, shuts off power to the freezer, and goes inside. Great safety precaution.
I watch the freezer fan slowly come to a halt as a young man, running as quickly as one can run with aggressively sagging pants approaches her. She lights up when she sees him— or maybe it was his pack of cigarettes’. The man, who had been followed by another couple now form a huddle in the slowly warming Wendy’s freezer.
In short time, each member of the circle was fully equipped with their own cancer stick. And then I saw something which both angered me and turned my stomach. The saggy-pants fella lifts up the Wendy’s gals smock and I see that she’s pregnant. They are all joyously rubbing her belly, filled with delight, and cigarette smoke.
I’m minimally bothered by the fact that our future cheeseburgers are being infiltrated by second-hand smoke. I’m incredibly upset thinking of all the potential health risks that this mother is taking with her child. It all seems to me to be an incredibly unhealthy situation for this child. I mumble to myself, “Idiots.”
But as I drive away, nuggets in hand, I slowly begin to realize how different my heart is from the heart of Jesus. It’s not that justice and righteousness don’t include making sure that children are taken care of from womb to tomb. It does. But there is something about the joy within that smoke circle that I cannot get around. This baby-daddy is clearly proud of the little life he has created. He’s “baby-daddy” to me but something much more special to this young lady — and certainly within the eyes of Jesus.
The Way of Jesus
And this is why I’m not very good at evangelism. I start at the wrong place, so often. I see a scene like this one and think that my job is to get them to stop making foolish decisions, clean up their lives a bit, put down the cigarettes and pick up a Bible. I’m convinced Jesus didn’t start here. He spoke to where they were.
I do not know for sure how Jesus would have engaged this couple. I think we get a clue in his interaction with the woman at the well. He entered into her world. He engaged her with where she was at in that moment. So I imagine that Jesus would have used their moment of joy to propel them into a deeper joy.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I get the impression from reading the Scriptures that Christ would have disregarded a good deal of things in order to love them. I know some hear that and think that I am implying that a holy God “whispers at sin” or something like that. What I’m trying to say is similar to what Bonhoeffer said when he said “[Jesus] allowed no law to act as a barrier to his fellowship with his disciples.”
In truth, my vision of holiness and love is cloudier than that smoke-filled Wendy’s freezer. I see one piece of a puzzle and think that it displays the whole thing. Given my addiction to inertia, I tend to start conversations on the points which make me comfortable. This is not the way of Jesus.
The way I viewed these image-bearers felt righteous. After all, smoking isn’t healthy for a pregnant mom. Freezers aren’t meant for smoke breaks. This circle of chain-smokers bore many of the marks of immaturity. And yet on this day I outdid them in immaturity. To know the gospel of Jesus and then view other humans and the world in a way that is antithetical to the gospel is the height of immaturity.
This article about evangelism originally appeared here, and is used by permission.