Friday, April 22, 2011

What A Shoplifter Taught Me About Easter

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It had started off as just an ordinary trip to the grocery store—and I wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible. (Btw, this was my life B. C. – Before Coupons. I made lists back then, but I certainly didn’t check them twice. In fact, I didn’t even try to stick very closely to a budget!)

Before finishing up, I had paused to look for a light bulb for my refrigerator. Surprised that my grocery store would carry such a dizzying array of bulbs, and wondering if a refrigerator light bulb would be labeled as such, I was just about to give up when I noticed a guy standing next to me. He was a real “he-man" type who seemed like he might know about such things, so I asked him.

He was agitated by my question, and I realized that I must have startled him. I certainly didn’t mean to. This is the South, and most of us are used to strangers striking up random conversations at the grocery store. But this guy was nervous and jumpy, and he was wearing a long-sleeved hoodie on a very warm spring day. He assured me that he had no idea which bulb I needed. Just then, I spotted one labeled appliance bulb. “That’s it,” I noted, then turned around to thank him anyway. (Remember, this is the South. We say thanks when people do help us, and even when they don’t!) But as I did, a steak fell out of the back of his hoodie.
A steak.
A steak on a foam tray, shrink-wrapped, straight from the meat department.

There were at least three other people standing in the aisle when this happened. Simultaneously, each person turned her head. No one wanted to deal with it. I mean, really, how inconvenient. “Minister to shoplifters” was not on my to-do list that day, nor, it would seem, anyone else’s.

As I wheeled my cart around and scampered off toward the dairy section, I felt embarrassed for him and ashamed for myself. I didn’t want to tell the management on him, but I certainly didn’t want to approach him, either. “What would Jesus do?” I wondered. But I didn’t wonder for very long. In my lifestyle of haste, I went on about my shopping, forgetting all about the guy with the steak falling out of his pullover. I finished up and paid for my purchases, making sure to use my handy-dandy shopper’s discount card, but not once thanking God for His provision and the blessing of a full shopping cart. When the cashier gave me the total, I thought it sounded a little high, but I didn’t worry about it. Sometimes my math is off, and besides, I was ready to go.

After piling the groceries into my van, I headed home. At the first stoplight, however, my curiosity got the best of me, and I pulled out my receipt to check it. Aha! The discount from my shopper's card wasn't showing up! I had missed out on nearly $10 worth of savings!

I considered what I should do. Should I call the store when I got home? Should I turn around and go back now? Should I forget about it? Into my whirlwind of reasoning came these quiet words from the Lord, straight to my heart: You just bought a steak.

“Oh, Lord,” I whispered, “I had already forgotten about that guy. But You didn’t.” I drove home stunned, and for the next several days, I thought about that man, the steak, and the coupon card that the clerk scanned but that never showed up on my receipt. I figured that the $9.27 that I didn’t save was the exact price of that stolen steak. And I was so thankful to know a God who loves so much that He cared enough to pay the price for a shoplifter’s dinner.

As we celebrate Easter this weekend, I realize there are scores of people who live unaware of the fact that God has paid the price for their sins through His Son, Jesus. Jesus willingly gave His life in order for people to enjoy right relationship with God the Father. We were created to be in fellowship with God, to love Him and live in His presence. But a holy God cannot look upon our sin or allow sin in His Heaven—not unless the sin has been covered by the blood of His son. That’s the price of our sin: death. The Apostle Peter explained it this way: For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:18-19). Jesus Christ is our gift from God. He conquered death in order that we could have eternal life.

What would Jesus do if He saw a steak fall out the back of somebody’s hoodie? Well, I believe He would pay for that steak, not secretly, but openly; not accidentally, but intentionally. He would pursue a relationship with that person and invite Him to share in His Father’s riches.

What about you? Are you trying to hide your sins in the back of your shirt? Despite your best efforts, they are falling out. While other people may turn their heads at the sight of them, Jesus sees your sins and loves you anyway. He’s already paid the price for your past, and He invites you to accept His plans for your future. You are paid for and planned for.

Have a blessed Easter!

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1 comment:

life...just saying said...

It was great meeting you and your family last night and hearing your daughter's band. Awesome to see a fellow homeschooling family pursuing their God-given talents and gifts.

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