Not long ago, I was in a crowded grocery store with three items in hand to purchase.
As I headed toward the “12 Items-or-Less” checkout aisle, a matriarchal-looking lady with a cart full of food slipped in ahead of me. It was no big deal to me, since I was in no hurry. But, it did occur to me that while the many other shoppers standing in line with their full carts seemed to respect the quick line limit, this lady had no intention of doing so herself.
She proved problematic. She was very sharp with the checker in double-checking certain sales items. She was also very critical of the young bagger. Once she barked, “I told you, I want these items double-bagged!” I am not quite sure why she insisted on having the bread items double-bagged.
In the meantime, three other men formed in line behind me with two or three items apiece. People with loaded carts were getting checked out faster than we were.
She refused to let the bagger place the groceries in the cart, since she made it a point to place all $156.78 of food items in the cart herself in very deliberate manner. All six of us in the in the “12 Items-or-Less” aisle could do nothing more than just watch.
Taking her huge pocket book, she then started looking for coupons, for which she looked in just about every pocket. She waited until she had every coupon needed before she handed them to the cashier. All the coupons brought the total cost down to $145.29.
The annoyance of the situation started to take flight when she dared to ask the cashier if that was the right tally. It worsened as she took so long to retrieve the money from the change purse. The paper money came out easy enough, but the change was a different story. She dug out one nickel, and then 24 pennies, which she proceeded to count out one by one onto the counter.
After getting the receipt, she turned to us, and, with a frown, stated coolly, “I have not held you gentlemen up, have I?” No one said a word, but I know what I was thinking. She had clearly misused the power of the front. She had gotten up front, and had used it powerfully without regard for those who were serving her, or those who were behind her.
If you think about it, there is a certain measure of power in many circumstances that comes with being up front. There is the power of time. There is the power of presence. There is the power of position. The person up front can manipulate the focus, such as this particular individual.
However, the pertinence of this incident as it relates to the Christian life provides a critical teaching moment for all the Church. There are no people accorded greater front position than the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Via the salvation experience, we become the elect children of God. The Church is regarded as the “bride of Christ.” We are gifted with the Holy Spirit and with Spirit-led insight into the Word of God. We are blessed with God-given privileges designed only for the Church. We are privileged to sit in “Heavenly places in Christ.”
Yet, we are instructed to demonstrate an others-directed attitude and mindset. Paul stated that as “the elect of God,” we should qualify mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, and patient forbearance of others. We are to qualify the ministry of Christ, who did not come to be served, but to serve. In other words, the spiritually endowed power of the front is supposed to be used by each of us to power others to the front in front of us. In this way, others best experience the ministry of God. In this way, Christ is glorified for the benefit those who need Him desperately.
How are you employing your power of the front?
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.