Posted by: William | November 1, 2007

The Panera Revelation

Here I am. I’m sitting in Panera Bread in the Bowie Town Center right now. I’ve been trying to finish an exposition of Matthew 5:43-48 (Love for Enemies). I was working at home for a while until my internet connection seemed to slow down and eventually die entirely. I tried for some time to fix the problem before the idea of coming here to Panera crossed my mind. Initially, I discarded the idea entirely, because public study of the bible usually seems kind of pretentious to me. But after a while, and no clear reasoning for the problem, I thought to myself “maybe this sequence of events has been divinely initiated… maybe I’ll even get the share the gospel!” So with that, I headed out to Panera, and as soon as arriving here I sat down and started writing. After a few minutes, a group of women came and sat down at the tables next to me. Two middle-aged woman, and one young girl. The women exchanged some pleasantries and began chatting. Meanwhile, I continued typing away pondering Jesus’ words commanding that I not only love my neighbor but in fact my enemy as well.

Because of my limited working space, I’d had the bible open online, and I was going back and forth between a word document and the bible. Before long the conversation next to me seemed to quiet, for only a matter of seconds. There’s little doubt in my mind that the woman next to me caught a glance of the biblegateway screen on my computer and before I knew it, were talking about a sermon their pastor delivered recently. The woman rambled off several bible verses; most from Revelation. I was too consumed in my work to pay much attention to what was specifically said, but I did catch, “… how nice it is to know we’re forgiven.” That was when my mind ticked a bit and I thought to myself, “oh, she noticed I was studying the bible…”

It didn’t take long for me to sink back into my study. Cross referencing, defining, looking up, studying and studying again; Jesus’ words were weighty and I knew it, but somehow were still only sitting on the surface. “Yeah, ok, I get it. We’re supposed to be going above and beyond, loving everyone, never do the minimum always do the maximum…” It seems so simple, but some how I just couldn’t burry it. The conversation next to me returned to spiritual matters for a moment as the women discussed Judgment day. The comments reestablished my attention, albeit only for a few seconds.

I continued to study away; I understood what Jesus said, but wasn’t quite grasping what he was saying. Just then, I heard the meeting to my right come to an end. The women began to gather their things and leave- just then, my eyes were reading Matthew Henry’s exposition, but my mind found itself somewhere entirely different. I had spent more than half an hour sitting next to a group of women who professed the name of Jesus as their savior, and the only thoughts I could extend in response were congratulations to myself that someone had noticed I was studying the bible! My stupidity rained down on me like a tropical storm. All of a sudden words started to sink, and I felt awfully dumb; I felt awfully human. I made the dangerous assumption in reading Jesus’ words that I was doing the minimum in love already, although my current situation was perpetually proving otherwise.

The women sat next to me for over half an hour, and I didn’t extend so much as an acknowledgment of their presence. They were not in my circle, and so no encouragement, greeting, or quiet prayer was offered for them. How is it that people united by something everlasting, and all powerful will respond with timidity in each other’s presence, but the upcoming Spider Man movie seems to unite even the most distant of relational divides.

I have no doubt that I was lead to Panera Bread; however my initial prideful expectations were not fulfilled. Jesus used my own ignorance and pride to sink his words in to my mind. We must love all, unconditionally, but how can we expect to extend love those in opposition to us, if we cannot extend love to those united to us. How can we hope to always do the maximum in love, if at times we cannot accomplish the minimum in love.

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Responses

  1. Yeah, it’s tough sometimes. When to speak, when not to speak. For me, my pride stands in the way, I am afraid of rejection. Or confrontation. What if they are more conservative than me? What if they are more liberal? Why do I not place my trust in Christ alone?

    You’re not alone.


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