Updated: Jan 18
Dr. RB McFee
Photo ©2020 Godiva Chocolates https://www.godiva.com/assorted-chocolates *
“Life is like a box of chocolates….”
Perhaps in part because I am dieting, and perhaps owing to a refrigerator magnet carrying that near iconic “Gumpism” piece of insight, thoughts turn to my favorite source of nutrition – chocolate! Oh and chocolate IS healthy for you (in moderation) –trust me. I’m a doctah!
Seriously, there are medicinal, or at least some positive health properties in the storied delectable known as chocolate. The Olmecs of Mesoamerica recognized this several millennia ago. Even before the Aztecs and Mayans, the Olmecs were known as the first to utilize the rare cacao bean to create the ingestible that we enjoy to this day. They, however, served the resulting product of the cacao bean - “chocolate” - as a beverage. To them it was an elixir. Expensive and considered important for health and spiritual reasons, it was reserved for rulers, healers, nobles, and certain rituals.
Or maybe they, like us, just liked the taste, and aroma of this amazing edible!
That said, throughout history in what is now Mexico, Aztecs and Mayans heavily guarded and protected their treasured cacao. Eventually other cultures discovered the joy of chocolate, too.
In England, as well as Europe, during the Victorian era, chocolate became fashionably important as a centerpiece for social gatherings, not unlike formal tea time. Because of that, special china sets were crafted for the occasion. Just go into an antique shop and if you look closely, what from a distance appears to be a coffee or tea set, in actually is a chocolate set – which is created around a specially designed chocolate pot, with accompanying cups and saucers designed specifically for drinking chocolate.
In fact, through most of chocolate’s history, it was not served in the manner our warrior poet Forrest Gump described – and what most people consider the ‘normal’ way of storing, or eating it – as pieces that “melt in your mouth, not in your hand ™” (M and M’s tag line). Which is to say, when someone presents you with the gift of chocolate (yes please!), you expect a box of hardened pieces you can hold and chew. Yet historically, chocolate was in fact served for millennia, even into the early 20th century, as a liquid, a beverage, and one that most people could not afford.
Sometimes served hot in some cultures, cold in others, as a beverage it was the centerpiece for rituals and social gatherings.
Today, most of us are familiar with contemporary chocolate production, where it is sold as something you hold, and eat, not something prepared and served in liquid form somewhat ceremonially. More is the pity. Because such a practice makes you truly savor the essence of the chocolate, and the shared experience with others.
Thankfully there are chocolatiers who have built their businesses largely around either sipping chocolate, or brewing chocolate, where the experience centers around selecting among many varieties of singe country and/or sole source beans from Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, or special blends from Africa, Costa Rica, or South America. Each is as nuanced as a hand designed box of pieces from Godiva, Brenner, or similar purveyors.
As an oenophile to wines, a student of chocolate could write many pages on this beloved treat. Entire books have been written about it.
Now at this point you might be wondering, ‘what does chocolate have to do with our Christian faith?’
Great question, but I was just coming to that point!
For our purposes, just as there is far more to chocolate than “milk, white, dark, heavy cacao concentration, brewing, sipping, or eating chocolate,” there is much more to people of faith. We are not one size fits all, any more than chocolate. Even the traditional and beloved Hershey Kiss ™ has a variety of flavors, each to be experienced differently.
The same is true for Christians, and people of faith. We come in a variety of flavors, and purposes, too! As such, you and I can provide a different experience for anyone who encounters us. Christians and chocolate can reflect Forrest Gump’s’ observation “you never know what you are going to get….”
One could wonder however, should Christians be considered as akin to a mystery toy surprise, or thought of as an unknown? Should we be considered a known commodity, where what you expect is what you get? And what should be expected of an encounter with a Christian? That being asked, should there be some predictability in us – call it ‘quality control?’
“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again, and subjecting Him to public disgrace.” Hebrews 6:4-7
We as Christians are the box of chocolates Forrest refers to, and each believer is represented by one of the delicacies. In life however, our churches, our box is not made by Whitman’s. There isn’t a photograph of the contents with a brief description.
Which is to say, with Christians, fortunately, or unfortunately you may not know what you’re going to get until you encounter each one.
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”
In an ideal world – in Christ’s Image, the Bible’s guidance, and the Apostle Paul as an exemplar, we have role models, and instructions how to live, such that each encounter with a Christian ought to be as pleasant as eating a well crafted chocolate, regardless of what is on the outside, or inside.
Put differently, each and every Christian has the same ‘play book’ – the Bible, especially the New Testament, and teachings of Jesus Christ, with which to guide our lives. Even acknowledging different interpretations, there are common, unambiguous themes we need to adhere to. When we fail to do that, we become the unknown quantity, the “you never know what you are going to get,” for good or naught.
God, being the ultimate Craftsman, the ultimate Chocolatier, did in fact make each of us unique. We are endowed by our Creator, through the Holy Spirit, with certain gifts, and combinations of talents – for His use and the blessing of others. Specially craft though each of us is, what we have been blessed with is for the purpose of using, and/or pooling our talents for one purpose – serving God.
Our selected gifts notwithstanding, we should be interchangeable in certain universal characteristics – being loving, tolerant, hospitable, caring, sympathetic, empathetic, emanating a sense of goodness, and with an instinct for forgiveness.
1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers, and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed….4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifs of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”
1 Corinthians 12: 1 - 11
Clearly God has made a box of chocolates that is full of distinct, beautiful pieces as each of us reveals.
But how do we present ourselves to a world hungry for goodness? Do we reveal our goodness readily? Are our words sweet when they should be?
Milton Hershey created a brand that supported underprivileged children early in the creation of the company. To those who know his story, his sense of philanthropy can be tasted in every bite of a Hershey ™ Bar. In similar fashion, anyone who has ever eaten a CCUMC apple pie can almost see the member volunteers from our community of believers tirelessly sharing their time and talents, whenever we look at this baked delight.
What about you and me? Do people see and feel, do they experience the goodness of Christ when they pick us out?
“How sweet are your words in my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.”
By proclamation as Christians we represent our Founder, not unlike products of a brand. When you open a box of Hershey’s, Burdick’s, Brenner’s, Godiva, or any respected chocolate, you have an expectation of quality. Should people encountering us as Christ’s followers have any less of an expectation of His quality?
As people of faith, encounters with us should be as pleasant, as uplifting, and as warmly filling, as a piece of hand crafted hazelnut filled chocolate. And when you have one delicious chocolate, you want more. Same holds true in being with people who make you feel better, who in fact help you become a better person, for the experience, not worse.
In chocolate, as in life, there are bland or unsavory, or even toxic products; the same holds true for people. And there are those who by their very presence uplift.
Will situations in life enable us to always be at our best? We are human. We make mistakes. We are not always at the quality level Jesus would hope us to be, and Paul would counsel us at achieving. But our overarching focus should be on consistently representing our Savior in such a way that when people encounter us, they want more of what we represent, not less.
Each of us is imbued with different gifts and talents, personalities, and packaging; nevertheless we are all part of the same company – Christ Unlimited [©rbm]. And if we profess our faith in Christ, follow His commandments to love God and others, and listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, no matter who meets a member of a Christian community they will be better for the experience.
Just like a chocolatier selects ingredients and packaging for a specific purpose – chili in chocolate, or chocolate coated fruit – God did the same thing.
Some may be wise, spiritual counselors, who can help us discern our calling and guide us towards applying our gifts to God’s work more effectively. Others have healing skills, or a gift of hospitality. The list of spiritual gifts and talents is long, and we each have been gifted with one, some or many, depending upon God’s purposes for us.
Have we taken an inventory of what God has given to us? A serious, hard, long look at our gifts, resources, blessings, and opportunities, or the people surrounding us that God has provided?
We need to remind ourselves we, each of us, are a special, handmade form of designer chocolate, created by the Ultimate Creator, put here so that those who encounter us are better for the experience, knowing they, too, can be filled with the same powerful ingredients we have been made with – and empowered by a sense of mercy and justice, love and tolerance, forgiveness and acceptance, friendliness and comfort.
When we do, Forrest Gump may have to change his statement to….
”Christians are like a box of chocolates, and you will know what you’re going to get before you open it, because each one will be awesome!”
Now that’s sweet!
“15 For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.”
2 Corinthians 2:15
Together we can tap into our gifts of the Holy Spirit, and expand the reach of who experiences our brand of chocolate, which is to say God’s goodness, as members of “Christ, Unlimited” into a world very much in need of “the sweet savor of Christ…”