I had an unexpected encounter recently.
Friday mornings, my wife is in the office and my two older kids are at school, so my youngest (Charlotte) and I have that time with just the two of us. Well, a few weeks ago, I decided to take Charlotte out to breakfast, only the healthiest of meals, of course.
So, we made our way to Burger King, put in our order, and sat down to wait for our food. We sat in our booth, alone in the restaurant, save for one other man.
He was probably in his late 50’s, sitting alone, and was also waiting for his food. He sat quietly for a while, then, while I was playing with Charlotte, turned to me and asked, “Do they bring your food out to you here, or will they call your number?”
I told him that I wasn’t sure, and thought the brief conversation over. But he had more to say. “Yeah, I wanted to make sure I know what to expect, that way if it happens, I know who to complain to. I don’t usually like to complain, but sometimes you need to. I mean, I don’t lean right or left, so I don’t usually complain about politics or anything like that…”
He continued like this for a little while, talking about the things he would and would not complain about. I assumed he was just a person who welcomes conversation, so I smiled and continued to respond as he spoke. But his ultimate purpose became clear as he went on. “You know, you don’t want to complain about things that aren’t important, and you can always tell what’s important because God tells us what is most important in the world. His Holy Word guides us and lets us know what’s truly important in the world.”
Ah! Now I understood. He was a Christian who was looking for a way to share his faith. I was impressed by how direct he was, and happy to hear what he had to say, but was also trying to communicate to him that I was a fellow believer.
After some time, I was able to mention that I was a pastor. This seemed to surprise him, and that seemed to satisfy him, and he brought his testimony to a close. I remember thinking to myself how bold he was in his faith, and how he was so willing to preach Christ to a stranger.
But this is when things took a bit of a turn.
He stood up and walked to the counter and asked the cashier if his food was ready yet. She said it would be just a moment, they only had two people working at that time.
Well, I guess he thought this would be the right time to complain, and so began a lecture on what “fast food” should mean, how many staff should be working, and how to communicate with customers. The cashier, also the manager, said that she was sorry for the inconvenience and that his food would be out as quickly as possible.
At this point, he heaved a sigh and went toward the bathroom, only to find them locked, as per that Burger King’s “restrooms for customers only” policy. This began a second lecture on customer convenience and how businesses should be run, all while the manager is helping customers.
The manager apologizes again, she gathered his food, handed it to him, and he walked out the door without so much as a thank you. Now, I want to make one thing clear before I go on, I don’t know this man personally, and I cannot make judgments about him. So many things could have impacted his attitude that Friday, not the least of which being that he was just having a bad day. So I won’t say anything about the man personally.
But, what I will say is that, were I a non-Christian bystander in this situation, this would have directly impacted my opinion of Christians. Here we see someone eager to share the gospel, directly followed by being eager to judge and lecture an overworked manager.
It reminded me that, when it comes to being an ambassador for Christ, telling people about Jesus must always be paired with treating them with the love of Jesus.
It reminds me of James 1:22-25. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
Hearing the word, reciting the word, even spreading the word, means nothing if we aren’t doing what it says. We are called to love others, to treat them as we would want to be treated, and to do those things joined with telling them about Jesus. We can’t just think that our words are separate from our actions. We cannot just hear the word, we need to be living it as well.
Even at Burger King.