Last weekend, our Children’s Ministry, as part of a retreat, went to the local Walmart and handed out Walmart gift cards to shoppers. I was moved and inspired by the following message posted on our church Facebook page from one of the recipients of a gift card. This person makes an incredible analogy between a Walmart gift card and the Gospel of Jesus.
“I was in the toy department at Walmart today when a young girl approached me and asked if I wanted a gift card from her church. At first, I kind of stared at her making sure I understood her correctly. I accepted the card she so kindly handed me and thanked her. As I looked around, I could see that there was a group of children (and adults) going up to different people and trying to politely hand out these cards of blessings. I heard one lady on the next aisle say, ‘No thank you, I don’t need it. Give it to someone who needs it, wants it, deserves it.’ I thought all the way home, isn’t that the way it is with the Gospel of Jesus? Here Jesus is, a free gift to us all, a wonderful life-saving gift and so many times we say no thank you, I don’t need Him, I don’t deserve Him, or I don’t want Him. That hit me hard. Thank you East 91stStreet Christian Church youth for going out and showing kindness and witnessing about Jesus. May you all continue to grow in your faith and courage.”
Unfortunately, this thinking is especially true in our world today—Christianity is for other people. The religious kind. Those who have their act together. Those who are more spiritual. Not for me. Johnnie Moore once wrote, “This prevailing sense of spiritual inadequacy is epidemic within Christian culture. It’s one of the greatest barriers standing between our faith and those who are curious about it” (Dirty God, 46).
What we learn in the Gospels is that Jesus is for all of us, not just the best of us. That’s what makes grace so amazing. We all need the grace of God—pastors, priests, religious, irreligious, spiritual, and “earthy.” Many of us are so convinced we have to get our lives together first and then come to God that we miss the point. The only way we can come to God is through grace. “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:11a).
“In the story of Jesus, we find that the greatest recipients of his grace are those who needed it the most and who thought they deserved it the least. The religious elite, who thought they deserved the grace and favor of God, were those who would miss it altogether” (ibid., 49).
You and I are ushered into God’s Kingdom, not because we deserve to be there, but because God has reached out through the grace of Jesus. Is your life messy? Have you made a mountain of mistakes? Join the club. But the way out doesn’t come through trying harder, becoming more religious, or by getting your act together. The way out is by letting Jesus in. We become like a child and simply receive (Matthew 18:3), and the grace of God which covers all our sins transforms our lives from the inside out.
The next time anyone makes you the recipient of a random act of kindness, receive it with grace, as the person did above, remembering the love of God and the free gift of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. Better yet, go out and share this amazing grace, even it’s simply by demonstrating thoughtfulness, compassion, and yes, maybe giving away a Walmart gift card.