FI Fridays: Before the First Impression
An open letter to an anonymous caller:
I’m sorry I don’t know your name. When you called our offices last week, you told one of our administrative assistants that you wanted to remain anonymous. I respect that.
I’m also sorry for the reason that you called. Your son grew up in another church here in the area, and because of the hypocrisy he’s seen he is questioning whether church attendance is even worth the hassle. All he needs is one more reason to write off the church, and one of our own might have provided that for him.
Recently he encountered one of our church’s attendees at a local fast food joint. Because of your description, I know the make and model of the attendees’ car, I know he’s a male, and I know he was sporting a Summit Church bumper magnet on the back of his car.
What I don’t know…or at least don’t understand…is why he felt the need to yell at your son. Oh, I know your son slipped into the parking space that our attendee wanted, but that’s no reason at all for him to be yelled at. Or even to be confronted.
I hope you realize that this behavior – though not condoned or encouraged – is a mark of very imperfect people. I can’t tell you the number of times I wish I could hide my own bumper magnet because I cut someone off in traffic. Or change my Summit t-shirt because I was short with a waitress. Or cover up the Summit’s address on my paycheck because I was impatient with the bank teller.
Still, I’m incredibly sorry for the encounter with your son. I’m sorry that our attendee gave him one more reason to be anti-church. I’m sorry that it was another thing that distracted him from the true message of the Gospel. I’m even sorry that when I found out about it, I wanted to bring back the Old Testament practice of stoning that attendee. (Although I have to admit I’m still musing that one.)
I hope that if you ever read this, you’ll immediately recognize it as your story. I hope that your son decides to give Jesus a chance…not because Jesus’ followers deserve it, but because Jesus is worth it. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to earth to be a servant. He didn’t look for the best parking spaces, and he certainly didn’t yell at teenage kids who got ’em. He lived, he healed, he loved, he suffered, he died. For you. For me. For your son. And yes, even for our hot-headed attendee.
I also hope our attendee reads this and recognizes himself. I don’t know who he is, and I don’t think I want to know. I want to trust that this was a one-time thing, that he repented afterward, and that he took the approach of grace the next time he was inconvenienced by a stranger.
As the guy at the Summit who is responsible for first impressions, I definitely realize there is an impression that happens before the first impression. I’m so sorry that your son’s impression of our church and God’s people was far from a positive one, but I thank you for having the courage to call our office and call this guy out. I pray that his sin won’t cause your son to miss the grace that’s found in Jesus.