Wal-Mart is not the most classy of places.
I hope this is not news to you. Unless you live in the backwoods of backwoods Arkansas, and your family tree has some disturbingly intertwined branches. Then, I’ll give it to you, Wal-Mart can seem high society.
It’s big. It’s cheap. It has nearly every single thing imaginable. It draws droves of people like no other store. And especially with people pinching pennies as they are these days, it’s your go-to location for nearly anything. Strawberries, yarn, tires, shoes, Justin Bieber CD, pet fish.
Of course, it also attracts all sorts of people. Just a quick glance through those pictures, and you’ll laugh, gasp in horror, and nod along as you realize that you too have seen some of those outfits.
I was at Wal-Mart recently, picking up something. We had guests over, and I had to go pick up dinner and swing by “Wally World” so that my mom could make one of the side ingredients. I was in a rush. I grabbed my 1 item and got in line at the Express Lane. You know, the lane where you’re supposed to have 10 items or less?
Yeah…. The people in front of me had at least 14. I counted.
And while I was in line, I got to observe my surroundings. A baby screaming bloody murder. A girl with virtually non-existent, rear-end showing shorts. Conversations with more profanities than actual nouns and verbs. Cashiers with lifeless look on their faces.
The folks in front of me got stalled. Their credit card wouldn’t go through, and so the cashier had to call management. All the while, they’re having a conversation, where the guy (19 years old) was saying how he wouldn’t marry the girl he was with, whom he had an infant with. “I don’t know what we’re going to be like in 5 years!” And it took 10 minutes for help to come and resolve the credit card issue.
And I was standing there, holding my container of yogurt. Thinking that there were people waiting for me at home. I had food getting cold in the car. And all these people were bothersome. They can’t keep an eye on their bank accounts. On their outfits. On keeping their pants on. I was irked by the clutter, the language I heard, and the fact that I had to wait so long in line. I was disgusted by the seeming baseness of the society that gathered in Wal-Mart.
And I reeled back as if I had been shoved by Andrew Bynum, because something frightening dawned on me: my sinfulness.
I could try to excuse my thoughts on the fact that I was tired and had worked an 8 hour day. That I was in a rush. That the couple in front of me should have been in a non-Express Lane. Seems like valid excuses, right? I was just caught up in the moment.
But the truth of it was that I was despising people. The secret sinfulness and pride of my heart came out! I thought in some twisted, absurd way, that I was better than the people around me. I didn’t have any kids out-of-wedlock. I had cultivated a pretty decent vocabulary. I’m a seminary student, gosh-darn it! I’m doing things for the Lord.
And there, the wickedness of my heart was exposed. But for the work of Christ, I’m not any better than anyone, be it murderer, prostitute, or white liar.
Funny thing is, biblically, these were the sorts of people who Jesus tended to hang out with!
The slimy money launder-er. The promiscuous lady of the night. The broke-as-a-joke beggar. The kinds of people that people looked down on. These are the people Jesus loved. That Jesus came for.
I’ve just finished reading For the City by Matt Carter and Darrin Patrick. They talk about how to be a church actively working for the city that you’re in. Not just suburbia, but the uncomfortable inner city. Proclaiming the gospel in the culture and to the people that we don’t always associate with. That we don’t attach the word “Christian” to. And while reading it, it convicted me of how uncomfortable I was with people of different economic, social, and cultural backgrounds. The heart of the gospel message transforms all of society and redeems all the brokenness.
And as followers of the true Messiah, these are the people we’re to love! Because society has rejected them, is disgusted by them, and wants to treat them as if they don’t exist.
It would be a scandalous shame if the church, the bride of Jesus Christ, did the same.