“That’s for you,” she says, averting her eyes and avoiding eye contact. The lady thanks her and takes the tract a bit embarrassed.
I was reading an article in the New York Times about how to raise moral children. In a study they did, a teacher demonstrated how to play a game and played selfishly to one group, then played graciously and preached about it afterward to another, and to a last group simply played graciously and didn’t mention it. After seeing the teacher play graciously and not say a word, the children were most gracious, notably so. They were more gracious even than those to whom the teacher exampled and exhorted. Children learn morality through experience regardless of what is said. So as I thought back to earlier that day when I saw a lady pass a tract to the cashier at Big Lots in front of her daughter, I began to wonder what her daughter would take away from that kind of Christianity. What had I taken away from that kind of Christianity?
Recently, I was talking with a friend about churches. I mentioned that the universalist church that I once attended as being filled with people who demonstrated the love of Christ. That, I told her, is what I really wanted to find in a church, but the Bible is not taught there. After seeing the tract passed today with a daughter in tow, I realized that it didn’t matter as much what people say as it does what they do. Isn’t it more important that our kids and the people around us see Christ than have us drone on about Him? That tract being passed sums up the epitome of what it is preach and not do. I’m not trying find fault with that lady. Her heart may have been pure and her intentions perfect. It doesn’t change the fact this kind of non-relationship exchange is the antithesis of Christ-like. For Christ, it started with the relationship and a lot of times it ended with it too. He was God to the people He met. They immediately knew God because they had a relationship with Him. Isn’t that the most basic requirement to what the church calls getting saved? A personal relationship, with Jesus. If we’re passing tracts, or in my case winning souls through persuasion, aren’t we failing miserably at being Christ-like?
This idea that we can save people seems to me to be the height of hubris. Who are we to think we’ve ‘saved’ a single person? We are not God, but if we put ourselves aside and build a relationship with people like Christ examples, we just might show people God who can save them. And maybe, if we do instead of preach, our children will grow up knowing God and seeing what God is. That way when people challenge their ideas of God, they’ll know who God is and who God isn’t. That’s how we should be teaching right and wrong. Not with words but with deeds. That way our children will know right and wrong when they see it.