Every Christmas our family enjoys attending a large musical production at a mega church. Last Saturday our Christmas spirit was lifted a few notches after we watched The Gallery at First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton.
Expecting a packed sanctuary, we arrived early, yet we still ended up with seats in the side section. A few minutes after we settled into the pew, I felt someone pushing against me. An older lady and her party of four were trying to squeeze into the rest of the open pew but it really could not quite fit them all. I felt very irritated that she kept shoving up against me. All this time the lady did not say a word to me. She did not ask me to please move over nor said a word of apology. I finally said to her nicely, “I really can’t move over any more.”
I thought to myself, if I was not a Christian and I only came to church once a year, I would be really turned off. The people at this church sure aren’t very friendly and I don’t think I’d want to come back. Yet, as I thought this, I realize I was making a judgment about the church and of Christians based on this one lady’s actions. Unfair as it may be, that is the reality of how people form opinions about a whole group of people.
It may well be that this old lady was a really nice person. Maybe she gives a lot of money to the poor, or was a retired missionary to Africa. Maybe she was tired from working all day, or her husband recently died. Perhaps she was shy and was intimated by me. Or maybe pushing everyone together into the pew was normal for this church since it gets packed with people every Sunday. I am pretty sure she wasn’t purposely being rude, still it sure did not leave me with a good impression.
Then I began to wonder how many people has been turned off to Christ because of me! Without realizing it and without meaning to, I’ve probably offended people too. Of course, I feel justified with my own actions. “Hey, I am just having a bad day; you don’t know what I’ve been going through.” But a negative impression has already been formed.
Fortunately, God’s grace can overcome all our inadequacies. God works to save people despite our poor witness. So who am I not to extend the same graciousness to the lady next to me?
At the end of the show, I turned to say Merry Christmas to her, but she had already turned to leave.