Everyone’s in a hurry in the Monday morning commute. The on-ramp to Highway 85 has what’s called a “metering light” which lets one car at a time onto the highway: go – pause – go – pause. This keeps the traffic flowing pretty well on the highway, but causes a backup at the entrance. It’s like standing in line at Disneyland.
Normally it takes me 10 minutes to get through the line. I’ve become used to seeing cars cutting in front of each other, trying to get one car-length ahead, so they can hurry up and wait. But this past Monday, I saw cars going around an obstruction. The obstruction turned out to be a car that had died.
“I should help this guy,” I thought, but I couldn’t see how I could safely pull off. So I kept going, entering the on-ramp on my way to the metering light. But the thoughts nagged me: No one else is going to stop. Everyone’s in a hurry, hell-bent on starting their day, with no time for some poor schmuck who is stuck in the middle of the traffic flow. I should stop. But I can’t; I’m in the on-ramp, I’m committed now. But wouldn’t Jesus stop?
Somewhere in this self-talk came a dim vision of Veggie Tales, with their brilliant re-telling of the Good Samaritan. In their story, it wasn’t a priest and a Levite who passed by; it was folks in a hurry, who sing this song:
We’re busy, busy, dreadfully busy
You’ve no idea what we have to do.
Busy, busy, shockingly busy
Much, much too busy for you.
‘Cause we’re busy, busy, frightfully busy
More than a bumblebee, more than an ant.
Busy, busy, horribly busy
We’d love to help, but… we can’t!
So I pulled off to the side, slapped on my nametag, walked back the on-ramp, and made my way to the stuck car. I asked the fellow what was wrong, and could I push him somewhere. Now at this point the guy didn’t know what I was driving, but he saw me walk from the on-ramp. He tells me he needs a jump, and instructs me to continue onto the highway, take the first exit, and come back around. I agree and tell him I’ll be back as soon as I can.
So I get back into the crawl of traffic in the on-ramp, get on the highway, take the first exit, come back on the regular roads, and pull up. In my car, my regular car. And as I help jump his car, and it’s probably pretty clear I’m no expert on cars, he asks, “You’re not with Triple-A? I saw your nametag and thought Triple-A had sent you.” No, I explain, I’m just this guy. He says, “Well thanks for helping me out, Jon.” We shake hands, and I ask him his name. “My name’s Ben,” he says. “I’m a student at DeAnza College, and I’m trying to get to my class. I guess that’s not happening.”
With his car started, I say God bless you, and am on my way. But then Ben quickly waves me down, and I pull up again. His car’s dead again. We try again. His car starts, but as soon as we disconnect the cables, it car sputters out. …But at this point the tow truck dispatched by Triple-A showed up. So he’s in good hands, and I drive away. But then I think, “Wait, where’s he going to be towed? Will he need a ride?” So I pull back around and park in a place where I can observe what’s going on. But it looks like the tow truck is taking him home. He’s fine, whew. And now I observe a strange thing: I can feel God’s love for this guy.
I think what I did was servant evangelism, minus the evangelism. And isn’t that in itself an act of the subversive, radical kingdom of God? I didn’t go in with an evangelistic agenda, and I think as a result, I felt God’s Spirit flowing towards this guy, a flow of love that I would not have experienced if I had not inconvenienced myself for his sake.
Did I mention that Ben is a black guy, and I’m not, and he had a bandana tied on his head, kind of L.A. gang style, and I felt a small touch of fear, but deliberately disregarded it?
My last pastor criticized servant evangelism as “not really effective. The main benefit is for the people who do it.” Well guess what, I need that benefit. I need God to change my heart.