I SPENT MOST OF MY LIFE in churches that taught me how to be half a Christian.
So did my good friend, Terry.
Let me tell you about the other half we’ve both discovered.
On Saturday, Terry and I along with about a dozen souls from our Bible study group, left our suburbs and drove to the inner city. There’s a church there that serves as a lunchroom for the poor, and the homeless, along with the overworked and grossly underpaid.
Twice a year, our group fixes a meal big enough for about 100 people. We take it down to the church. We serve it to the folks. And if there’s enough left over, we eat with them.
The food we took was delicious. I know because I got to eat some. We had enough left over.
In fact, we had so much left over that my friend Terry took carryout for a walk in the neighborhood.
I had to leave early, but as I left I saw Terry walking down the street in the opposite direction.
I figured he was taking supplies back to his car.
It didn’t register at the time that his car was near mine, which would have put him headed the wrong way.
On Sunday he told me what he did.
There’s a mom and pop tire store across the street from the church. I think it may actually be attached to the owner’s house. There was a lot of activity there, I had noticed earlier, when I arrived. Maybe that’s because it was a gorgeous day. A nice day to get a tire.
Terry had scooped up an armload of leftover desserts. He took them to the tire store. He gave them to the dirty-fingered workers and to the curious customers.
If I were double-jointed, I’d kick myself for not thinking of that.
On the other hand, Terry’s got a jump on me. He teaches in the inner city. He’ll often take donuts left over from our Bible study meeting on Sunday and give them to some of his students. Many come to school hungry.
That’s the half of Christianity I missed during the first half of my life.
I nailed the church thing.
- Getting saved.
- Getting baptized.
- Giving offerings.
- Praying like I knew what I was talking about.
I wonder if God ever looked down on me and thought:
“Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings— meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more!
Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion….
Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.
—Isaiah 1:13-14, 17, The Message.
That’s the other half of what it means to be a Christian.