Recently I had the “pleasure” of meeting a very cranky, disgruntled, and jaded customer. When I walked over to greet him and asked if he was finding everything he needed okay, he gave me this scrooge-esque glare and declared that he had been “helped” several times before on previous visits and did not like any of the cigars he left with. He told me in no uncertain terms that if I did not know my stuff I could go away, he didn’t want to deal with armatures–or get more suggestions that did not meet his tastes or expectations.
Long story short, I smiled, listened, let him vent, and gave him my suggestions. He went with my advice and was pleasantly surprised that he actually liked it. His whole attitude about the store and the people in it changed after that. He left happy… or at least, happy-ish..
There is a similar thing that I bump into again and again with the church. I routinely bump into people who are looking for God, for forgiveness, or at least that is what they say they are looking for. They know they are broken, messed up, in trouble, and lost. They are searching for something to give them hope, some reason to love, to forgive, or possibility of finding forgiveness for themselves. When I bring up Jesus, they often scoff saying things like, “No thanks. I don’t like Christians” They had been hurt, judged, measured, found wanting, not worth the time, not the right person, or were dealing with crap that the Christians they tried to confide in didn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole.
When those people show up in your church or work or when you are out and about, don’t be one of the reasons that they give to justify their jaded attitude towards the gospel. What they need is to be listened to, to be treated with love, respect, and humility, and shown (as in given) the grace they are looking for. That is what they need.
Now, what they do with that grace and compassion you give them I cannot say. That is all up to God’s providence. But chances are once they see that grace is not just a legend but a reality, their countenance will change. Grace has a way of doing that.