The writer of the New Testament book of Ephesians reminds followers of Jesus Christ that their relationship with Christ and the eternity with God that Jesus offers comes not because we're good or virtuous people nor for any good things we might do. "For by grace [that is, God's charity] you have been saved [from sin, death, and hell] through faith" (Ephesians 2:8). We are saved by God's grace, which we claim as our own when we dare to trust Jesus' promise to erase the death-dealing power of sin over our lives AND that He will give us new lives with God.
Kindness Outreaches present a great picture of how "grace through faith" works. We saw it again today.
The water we give is free. All people need to do is trust us enough to take it.
But some don't. Of course, we don't force the water on them any more than Christ forces Himself or His grace on anyone. Until the light turns green, when handing out water would entail stopping traffic, something we don't do, people can change their minds. Similarly, as long as we draw breath or until Jesus comes back, we can--like the thief on the cross who knew his sin, but turned to Jesus for forgiveness and the promise of paradise with God--we can turn to Christ and live. But why wait? The blessing of being sustained and accompanied, actually being dwelt in, by Jesus in this life are too good to pass up!
Few of the people who receive or reject the bottled water we offer them on Saturdays will ever think of themselves as participants in a living parable about how salvation works. But we do hope that the water and the little cards that accompany each bottle will help them think, "I wonder why people who believe in Jesus are out giving away something for free on a Saturday morning?"
If they are spiritually disconnected people, asking that question could lead them on a road to Christ. That's what we pray will happen because it's only through Jesus that the free gifts of forgiveness and life with God can come to a person. As Jesus says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).
So, what happened today?
- A woman was walking with her dog. She said that she wasn't thirsty, but that her dog was and loved to catch water from a bottle as she poured it. My wife Ann said, "Mark, you've got to get a picture of this!" I did. It's below. After Ann and Fran had a conversation with the woman, Ann told her, "Here's a bottle for you." She took it and said goodbye to us all as she walked on.
- Jesse, a college sophomore from our congregation, took water to the occupants of a stopped vehicle. A little kid offered the entire allowance he had just received in exchange. Even kids find it hard to fathom getting something for nothing...which is why the good news about Jesus is so hard to accept and so fantastic to receive!
- A woman stopped at a light on Hunter Street, her windows rolled down, had initially turned down my offer of water. But I persisted. "Really?" I asked. "It's cold and wet and free!" She laughed and said, "All right." She took the bottle and thanked me.
- A woman in her sixties wasn't going to take a bottle. "You're not going to get thirsty?" I asked her. "OK," she said, "but just one."
- Another woman was skeptical. "What's the catch?" she asked. "Nothing," I told her, handing a bottle to her and telling her, "Have a good day."
- A woman told Fran and Ann that she didn't need water, but wondered if she could make a donation to our work. They said, "No, thank you." We never take money.
- A young mom happily accepted water and told us, "This will get me through the drive home!"
- Three guys involved in lawn care were bunched together in the cab of their truck, the first vehicle in a line at the red light. At first, they refused our offer. But as they saw us giving away water to people behind them, they evidently thought better of it. "Hey!" the guy riding shotgun called out, "Could we have some of that water?" Sometimes all we need to take the leap of faith or trust is the example of others living with faith or trust.
No Kindness Outreach next Saturday. But we'll do another one on Saturday, August 27.