Yesterday, I referred to International Friendship Day. Now, I want to tell you about our experience of friendship earlier today. We went to the Hypermarket in Faerie Glen to do our monthly grocery shopping. I don’t know whether the staff have been on a team building exercise, but everyone was excessively friendly and helpful. It did not matter whether it was the cleaners mopping the floors or the packers or the cashiers. They laughed, moved out of the way as we approached and were friendly even when we asked them about a product. The cashier and male packer serving us laughed most of the time with the customers.
We started shopping at this store over 29 years ago. In those days, when we went on a Saturday to do the month’s grocery shopping, the checkout points had more than ten fully loaded trolleys queuing. Some people had two loaded trolleys each. The queues were almost as bad today. As we approached the checkout points from the “ten or less items” side, the queues were five to six trolleys long. We walked to the far side and found the last queue had three trolleys waiting, so we joined that queue. In moving towards that side, we passed many queues with the sign “CASH ONLY”. By the time the trolley before us got to the checkout we were in line for, a “CASH ONLY” sign was put up there too. I immediately said: “Oh no … not after we have been here for so long” (which was about 15 minutes). The cashier laughed saying … “we will help you”.
Then, the most amazing yet frightful thing happened. An older lady (maybe in her 70s) let rip with a temper tantrum. She screamed so loudly that virtually all the people in the many queues looked up at her. Then, she took a few things out of her trolley, pushed the trolley into the trolley at the checkout in front of her and marched off to the “ten or less items” checkout. What she did not know was that that queue was the longest I have ever seen … and it was also cash only! The reason for her temper tantrum was that when she eventually got close to the checkout she saw the sign: “CASH ONLY”. Whose fault was this? As you approach any of the queues that have this sign, you see the CASH ONLY sign from a distance. Why were the queues moving so slowly? Because all their card machines were offline. Again, whose fault is this? Not the staff nor the store … somehow the link to the bank was down. The store had about two mobile card machines that needed to be moved from one side of the many checkout points to the other side. (If you have been in that Hypermarket, you will know the distance). For this reason, the queues moved slowly … and although many customers were concerned about not having sufficient cash on them, the staff were very gracious, assuring everyone they would be helped. The temper tantrum granny sadly revealed what was in her heart as she screamed frightfully loud.
It’s easy to lose your cool at times like this. It’s easy to expose the content of your heart when things don’t work the way you expect them too. It’s easy to behave as if you are the only one that matters. There must have been at least, if not more than 100 trolleys/people at the checkout points. Everyone must have been anxious, yet only one blew a gasket as she boiled over! Even after her spectacular display, every other customer continued in patience and even talked and joked with one another. In general, our experience, minutely marred by this granny’s three-year-old behaviour, was a pleasant one … largely because the staff were so professional, happy, helpful and friendly.
What is extremely sad is that each one of us have, even as adults, thrown a temper tantrum or two over the years. Maybe it was not as obvious and damaging to your reputation as it was this lady … but the guilt and dirty feeling that follows is bad enough! Yet, one does not need team building exercises to be like the staff of the Hypermarket. All one needs is a continual growth in the graces and disciplines of the Christian Faith.
What has happened to the Christian? Paul helps us here:
Ro 6:5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Ro 6:11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
You see, the ‘before’ was defined by the acts of the sinful nature:
Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Then comes the ‘after’ once you know Jesus as Lord:
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
Compare the acts of the sinful nature with those of the fruit of the Spirit. We who are part of the Body of Christ ought to demonstrate our gratitude to Jesus Christ for His grace and mercy … saving us from the wages of sin … eternal hell by living expressly for Him wherever we are to be found. Reflect the Hypermarket staff, not the old granny.
Dear God, help me to dress myself daily with the Fruit of the Spirit so that I’ll never disown You. Amen.