Going To Church and Confessing Christ Isn’t What Makes You A Christian

I learned a big lesson the other day. It involved a bum, an Evangelical Christian, and a meal at Chick-fil-A.

So there we were… my dad and I had cruised over to Chick-fil-A for a quick bite to eat for lunch. I had no idea I was going to receive one of the most severe spiritual smackdowns of my life. By the time I left Chick-fil-A that day, I was motivated to become a better person. All of this happened in the 10 short minutes it took me to wolf down one of those scrumptious harvest salads. (Yes… I’m trying to “eat healthy.”)

Here’s what happened. I just sat down to wait for my food to be brought out to our table. As I was sitting down, I saw a guy sitting in a booth with blond hair and some very dirty clothes. I had seen this guy standing on a few street corners in times past and I knew he definitely had something going on with him. I suspected drugs, but really, I can never be completely sure. I had no idea what this guy has gone through or is going through currently. Odds are, he’s in bad shape and there is an extremely high probability that nobody cares about him. Most people probably look at him as a menace to society. A drain, a druggy, a worthless human being who probably (we assume) brought these circumstances upon himself.

Over the last few years, I feel like I’ve become more cynical toward people like this. I’ve watched on security cameras what appears to be homeless individuals sitting in the hallways at our office building shooting heroine. One night… the cops came, the people packed up to run away, and they stuffed their used syringe in a compartment in our elevator. We only knew because the office cleaning crew told us they reached in there to pick up some trash and the needle almost stuck them in the hand. Every day we come to work, the premises were trashed the night before. According to a few of our law enforcement friends, they can’t arrest them for trespassing unless they catch them in the act of breaking in. The cops cited some law that Governor Jerry Brown enacted recently. The police then told us that “a majority of the homeless people that they come across have access to local programs that can help them get off the streets…” but… but… “they choose not to participate in the programs because it means that they would need to get sober and stop using drugs.”

I’m not a heartless person. I’ve been moved by compassion time and time again by people on the streets. I’ve literally given the shoes on my feet to another who had no shoes. I’ve felt so much love and compassion for those that have less than I do and I’ve always given help where I can. I’ve felt that way all of my life. But that day in this Chick-fil-A, I remember thinking to myself:

“Why don’t they kick that guy out?”

“He’s making a scene.”

“He’s making people uncomfortable.”

“I hope he doesn’t come over here.”

It was 105 degrees outside. He had no shoes on. He was dirty… truly dirty… truly homeless, and either crazy or strung out. He had a Chick-fil-A cup in his hand. Maybe he was thirsty.

I don’t know why my thoughts were so harsh that day. Maybe I was having a bad day. Maybe I was tired of the accumulated property damage at our office, or annoyed at the need for us to step over homeless people’s urine on the way to our front door at work. I don’t know what it was but my thoughts weren’t kind toward this particular man at this particular moment.

And then it happened. My dad says, “Take a look.”

I turned around and saw a man walk up to this homeless man whom everyone else had avoided. I watched him extend his hand, shake his hand, and then sit down at the table with him. Within about 30 seconds, the man who sat down, stood back up and walked toward the front of the Chick-fil-A. 2 minutes later, that man came back to the table where the homeless man was with a bag of food in his hand. He set the food on the table, sat back down at the table, held hands, and prayed together. All of this was taking place in a Chick-fil-A. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

It wasn’t the fact that this man gave away some food. Anyone can flip a coin or throw a candy bar out the window. No… what I admired the most was that this Christian man SAW this man. He SAW him. He talked to him. He ensured him that he wasn’t invisible and worthless to the world. It might have been the first conversation this man had with another real person (not an imaginary person) in a decade. He didn’t see him as a drug addict or a dirty diseased vagrant. He saw him as God sees him. As someone who is worth a few minutes of attention.

The story of the good Samaritan is only significant because of the fact that this Samaritan took the time to help. He didn’t despise the man or simply throw a dollar his way and chalk it up as his good deed for the day. He put the guy on his horse, took him to the inn, and tried to help him heal. Jews were supposed to be the covenant people… and yet Jesus used a Samaritan as his example of Christlike love.

On another day and in another situation, I might have been the good Samaritan. But on this day, I sat there and watched like a Levite passing by on my way from Jerusalem to Jericho. That day, I became a first-class scribe, Pharisee, and a hypocrite. Just going to church and confessing Christ doesn’t make me or anyone else a Christian. Attending my meetings, paying my tithing, keeping the word of wisdom, and attending the temple is just a small part of what it takes to earn discipleship status. You could be the greatest scholar, a respected key holding leader, or the most charismatic teacher… but if the things you’ve studied doesn’t cause you to act in a way that reflects the things you are studying, then it is pointless and ineffective. A real Christian looks at people in the same way that Christ would look at them. He never sees them for less than what they are.

Sometimes I just need a reminder. Maybe I can provide a reminder for someone like that someday.

What Makes You A Christian

Now go figure… I went to Chick-fil-A a few days later and guess who is one table away from me? The good Samaritan. I had to tell him how grateful I was for his example. He graciously shook my hand… but in no way did he want any credit for what he had done. He didn’t want his name to be known.

So for now… he’s just a dude with a soft heart, who helped me remember that I should always look on others with compassion regardless of what I’m going through in my life. In doing so, I will be a much happier and fulfilled individual throughout the duration of my life.

Facebook Comments

Post Comments

  • Oyer Horne

    Yes, it made me think more about how God sees us–thanks for the wakeup

  • John G

    I’m starting to maybe like you, Trimble. I thought you were another clean shaven Mormon in a white shirt who went to BYU and drove around listening to conference talks. Was I wrong….maybe?

    • Haha! That’s the best compliment I think I’ve had online. “I’m starting to maybe like you!” Yeah so… never went to BYU. I wasn’t smart enough.

  • BooBoo75

    What a pile of insipid manipulative drivel. Have you ever been homeless for an extensive period of time? I have. Have you ever habitually used and abused drugs and/or alcohol to escape reality and avoid problems rather than deal with them? I have. I can tell you unequivocally the vast vast majority of homeless people are there as a direct result of their choices over many many many years. You just arent privy to that information. Homelessness is the endpoint, the outcome, at which years and years of selfish, antisocial decisions by these bums finally becomes visible to people like you. As a result, you are forced to use a bunch of incorrect assumptions that have no bearing on actual reality but fit whatever narrative you are flogging.

    You make the classic mistake of projection. You think these people want what you have. They don’t. They have explicitly rejected that. They have explicitly chosen trade offs you and others wouldn’t make. They’ve traded a home for drugs and alcohol. They’ve traded safety for drugs and alcohol. They don’t want responsibility (a job). They don’t want bills. They don’t want the strictures of society. That’s why they’ve created an alternative social structure on the margins of normal society. The LAST thing you should be doing is incentivizing this kind of antisocial and dangerous behaviour just to satisfy your own ego. And make no mistake that’s what your doing when you make such effete but public gestures. It’s smarmy virtue signalling that makes YOU feel good but ultimately hurts that individual by not letting them feel the consequences. It’s rewarding animal behaviour so you can get personal plaudits. It’s just gross and morally and ethically wrong. People like that become merely an object you can use in your own self aggrandizement.

  • Darla R. Gaylor

    A great story, Greg. I have a dear friend whose brother chose to be homeless & it was heartbreaking for her. Try as she might, she could not get him to stay at her home & become productive, despite his abilities & aptitude for computers. He finally died on the streets, though he was not alone. Her brother had friends in the homeless community that were with him when he passed.

    You bring up a difficult subject though. How is it best to help? What is really meaningful to this population? What does it take to get people off the streets? What does our response say about our hearts? The stats about what is done with cash are completely disheartening. We have many homeless outreach programs in our area, but they are either underutilized or only sought out for meals & occasional shelter. There are political answers on both sides of the aisle. One side seems to want to ignore them, the other to coddle & enable. Neither is feasible for long term success. Clearly, mental health services are too underfunded & laws about committing those whom may need long term, intensive care are quite lax. What to do? What to do?

    I think your post and the good Samaritan you observed represents the best answer for what we can do as individuals: see these folks as children of God, and help them one at a time. For me, I had to overcome (and some days, the battle continues) the same thoughts you expressed. I refuse to give money; I don’t want to facilitate drug or alcohol abuse, but I decided there was nothing wrong or enabling about buying a meal for a stranger.

    Frequently over the years (it just depends on my place & time), I have handed out fast food gift cards. If I’m at a drive-thru and there’s a homeless guy near by, I buy an extra meal & give it to him. At the grocery store, I buy a little extra food & pass it out the window at the stop light where someone is begging. Cleaning out the pantry? I know several areas where homeless folks congregate & I drop my excess off. My family & I even did a back pack project one Christmas, where we packed up donated bags with food, socks, underwear, blankets, etc. & cruised the local “hot spots,” gifting the bags to who ever we could find (It felt really weird stalking the homeless!).

    These are all things we can do one on one to show love to another of God’s children. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with buying a meal for a stranger. At least it’s a start. 😉