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Shopping Cart Christianity

Dr. RB McFee

This Sunday I was listening to KLOVE, which is a contemporary Christian music radio station (95.5 FM, 107.3 FM). Between songs, the DJ recounted a conversation she had with a listener, talking about shopping carts at the grocery store.

As an aside, this particular DJ always takes the time to either pray with someone, or share a quirky, but useful insight into living the life of a Christian, from a daily activities perspective.

Getting back to their conversation, each shared an observation whenever grocery shopping, they noticed folks just leaving carts between cars, on parking islands (like the photo above), even wherever the wind blew them. The caller noticed only a few people brought their carts back to the store, or one of the many cart receptacles placed throughout the parking lot.

Then the DJ asked the audience – those of us listening to the radio – is it right for Christians to just leave the carts at our cars, or should we take the extra time and return them either to the store or the storage places near our cars?

Before anyone had a chance to call in, she said it really wasn’t a question, and shouldn’t even be a question for Christians. It’s called “do the right thing,” and that’s what Jesus’ followers are supposed to do.

It reminded me of an experience Saturday evening. I had gone for a long walk in a peaceful place, and then headed into a Walgreens for some post exercise nutrition (i.e. chocolate). And as is often the case, you go into a store for one item, and end up needing a cart to carry the load of things accumulated. So after settling the bill, I went to my car, unloaded the cart, and then brought it back inside the store next to the checkout counters where they are stored.

The associate stopped what she was doing, and thanked me, further saying that it is appreciated, saving them from going outside to round them up. I told her thanks for noticing, but why wouldn’t I return it, it’s the right thing to do? Smiling she said, “yeh, true, but not everyone does.”

Before we continue, I’m not inserting myself or what I did as an effort towards sainthood. For one thing, halos won’t fit over my hats. For another, mortality comes with flaws, and we all have plenty of them.

The trick is as a Christian to be mindful of flaws, and try to rise above human weakness through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But to do that, one must be mindful.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. But if it was easy, the Lord wouldn’t need His people to do it, or to set good examples.

Consider Paul’s advice to the Colossians….

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

Colossians 3:23

You and I are Jesus’ ambassadors. Once we committed to becoming a Christian, Christ’s follower, we assumed a certain set of rules and values that are part of His Kingdom. We are His workers, His children, His representatives on earth. And the hat trick of His foundational expectations ….

1. Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul

Scriptures: Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12: 30 – 31, Matthew 22: 36 - 40

2. Love your neighbor as yourself

Scriptures: Leviticus 19:17, Mark 12: 30 – 31, Matthew 22: 36 – 40

3. Do the right thing.

Although most notably the first two pillars, commandments actually, are often quoted together as Jesus’ doctrinal teachings to His Disciples as quoted in the Gospels (but harkening back to Jewish scriptures His followers would very likely recognize), the third pillar of Christ’s doctrine, is not specified the way commandments 1 and 2, but are nevertheless expected.

How could it be otherwise? How can we call ourselves Christian, and then take shortcuts in life, especially ones that might inconvenience others, or act in mere mortal fashion, when we have a higher calling? And in the process not exactly cast a good light on those of us professing to follow a higher path, a better way, a Perfect Role Model?

I listened to a TV preacher last night. He shared with his congregation a character trait he is working on… ”impatience.” He hates to wait. He then shared a story about when he and his wife hurried to get to a restaurant on time for their dinner reservation. Only the table wasn’t ready for a while. He could feel the impatience inside him, making him want to go to the front desk and have a talk with the host. What stopped him? Looking around he could see many of his parishioners dining, waiving, and whispering “hi pastor.”

Sometimes others help us to follow our higher angels, just like this pastor did, and I’m sure all of us have had a similar early warning system kick in before we did something that wouldn’t reflect well on us, but more importantly wouldn’t exactly reveal the type of person Jesus wants representing Him.

How many times have we seen someone we know who is a fellow Christian, yet does something that could earn the comment “that’s not very Christian!” Maybe it was a snarky comment, or rude comeback. Maybe it was a cold shoulder, or having an unforgiving heart.

To be sure, we aren’t perfect, we do make mistakes, we can sometimes take shortcuts, can be lazy. Been there, done that, got the t shirt. But unless we have a good reason for doing so, and they are in Christ’s view, probably few and far between, if we choose the t Shirt of Christ, if we wear it, we need to be it, or as close as humanly possible.

The world is watching. But more importantly the One we profess to follow, to love, to want to reflect in a world desperately needing good role models, happy endings, and people to count on, He is watching.

The DJ summed up what we are called to do as Christians, and to be mindful of our actions when she offered this suggestion….”do the right thing.”

To quote the great 19th century writer, Mark Twain….

“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people, and astonish the rest.”

Jesus did, and the world marveled, was even astonished at all the “right things” Jesus did, such as helping folks others would have ignored, or being kind when society was ready to kill or punish. As God’s obedient son, Jesus did the right thing.

As Paul reminds us, we, too are God’s children. How we choose to live is up to us. We can “do the right thing,” whether it is taking the extra minute to return a cart, or put in extra time at work because we lingered at lunch, even if the boss wouldn’t know, or being kind to someone who rubs you wrong, or well we both get the idea.

In that same sentiment, Paul reminds us Who we work for, and Who we represent….

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

Colossians 3:23


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