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Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Testimony in the Twilight Zone

I’m becoming a believer in snowblower evangelism.

I live in an area where big snowfalls happen several times a year. I mean the kind that are a meter or so (a few feet) deep, heavy and wet. If you’ve ever tried to shovel out a driveway in those conditions, you know it’s absolutely backbreaking work.

The Lord gave me a snowblower. I don’t mean he personally went down to the local John Deere store and picked it up for me, I mean that it came cheap and unexpected, as a kindness from one of the Lord’s people. I don’t deserve it, and I’m very grateful to have it.

So I feel I owe the Lord for it. Consequently, when I have it out, I look around and see if I can help my neighbours who don’t have one. I don’t ask; I just do it. And afterward, I go away without telling them I was there.

Now, understand, please, that I’m not claiming any special credit here. Maybe it’s more a sense of guilty privilege that started me doing this rather than a proper sense of caring. I know my own natural motives, and I assure you that they’re not higher than the average.

But some of my neighbours really like me now. They come across the street to chat, or even invite me in for coffee and a snack. And we talk. But we probably would never have had reason to so that if I didn’t have the snowblower. It’s amazing how open people become when you show them a little kindness.

I’m slow sometimes, but I’m learning. There are all kinds of ways to witness. But I’m starting to see that they all require one key principle.

Drawing the Principle

The Lord told us that if someone strikes you on the cheek, you turn the other one and offer that to him. He said that if someone forces you to walk a mile, go two instead. He said lend, and don’t expect a return. He said pray and do good works, but keep them secret and miss out on the present reward. He pointed out that the world loves its friends and hates its enemies; but he told us to love people who hate us and treat us with spite — to pray for them and do good to them.

What do all these passages have in common? They’re all about going the extra distance.

You see, people are prepared to be reasonable, to be balanced, and even to be good ... to a point … but beyond that they just don’t go. There’s a point at which fair is fair, I got my share and you have yours, we both did our bit, the bargain’s been kept, justice has been served, it’s 50-50, and so on. That’s the zone of the reasonable, and good people live up to it. But no one expects even a good person to countenance unfairness, injustice or imbalance, and certainly not to sit still for abuse.

But the reasonable zone is not for the Christian. For it is only when we step into the beyond zone that we as Christians start to look different. It’s there that we raise the question, “Why would he do that?”

Testimony starts where the world leaves off.

To go beyond the normal degree of human goodness is to enter a realm of which the world knows nothing. It’s a Twilight Zone … not the one that comes before dark, but the one that comes after it, when a crack of light pierces the horizon of night and intimates a new day dawning.

Making It Practical

Are you being a Christian employer? If you are, then your treatment of your employees is better than that of secular employers: wages are more generous, benefits are more unstintingly provided, and pensions are strategized for the long term good of each recipient. Quality control is also higher than ordinary. So is accountability. Promotion is by merit. There is no bullying or anger on the floor. Training is provided. There’s no cutting corners in the shop. The warehouse is a safe workplace. Suppliers are paid on time. Contracts are kept. Women and minorities are treated equitably.

Are you a Christian worker? Your testimony starts before work, and ends after closing time. You don’t badmouth the boss, gossip with your colleagues, or indulge in crude joking when others do. You don’t just look to your own work, but to helping others as well. You keep an eye out for opportunities to promote the welfare of the company beyond the norm. You do what you are told, but also what you are not told but still see you could do. You take your wages without complaint. You don’t envy your senior colleagues. You don’t steal time or resources from your employer; you add value. You know the name of the janitor or night watchman — in fact, you especially value anyone others ignore. You say thank you much more than other people.

Or if you go to a restaurant, do you give a standard tip or a little more? In a store, if a clerk makes a mistake on your bill, do you point it out and make it right? Do you thank the people who provide services? In home repairs, do you offer the repairperson a coffee? When services go wrong, do you get angry and demand your rights, or do you patiently appeal for help and express thanks even when you don’t feel like it?

And you know that mean-spirited person on your block? She’s your best opportunity for testimony: how you react to her will show whether you are the same as your neighbours or not. Or maybe it’s the unfair boss, the complaining customer, the incompetent tradesperson or the annoying saleswoman. It’s your life — you know where the challenges lie. And you know where the normal bounds of basic decency for an ordinary person end. Only when you choose, for no reason but to be a Christian, to go beyond these bounds does your testimony begin.

Ask, and the Lord will show you where your personal opportunities to enter the Twilight Zone are.

And God?

And what about the Lord? How does he make his love toward us known? After all, human beings love people too. If pressed, some people would even go so far as to die for another — assuming, of course, that it was a really good person. No one in his right mind dies for a wicked person.

But while we were still sinners, the Savior died for us. And that is how we know his love is better than human love. Thus he “commends” his love.

Commend the love of God to others. Enter the Twilight Zone.

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