Monday, June 8, 2009

Titus Got Me Thinking...

The Book of Titus has captured my attention recently.  Specifically, the emphasis on "good deeds"--in only three chapters, they are referenced six times.  While Paul makes it crystal-clear that good deeds have nothing to do with salvation (see Titus 3:5), he is emphatic that good deeds are the high and non-negotiable calling of those who have experienced spiritual re-birth.  His instruction to "be careful to engage in good deeds" (3:8) implies far more forethought and intention than I usually put in.

Anyway, last night as I was spending some time in Titus, I started recalling different instances when I have been on the receiving end of a good deed.  The list would be endless if I were to recount every nice thing that someone has done for me.  However, some memories stick out, and they all have a common denominator: the good deed was from a stranger.

Elsewhere I have recounted a woman's kindness on a Greyhound bus headed to Minnesota, and how it influenced me to turn around and (grudgingly at first) express the same sort of generosity on another Greyhound barreling down I-70, years later.  I don't remember that woman's name, but through our conversation I learned she had a personal relationship with God, too.  She was returning home from one of many visits to her father, who lay slowly wasting away in a cancer hospital.  Despite her personal pain, she had made a point of packing extra blankets to share with fellow travelers.  That's what I call "being careful to engage in good deeds."

Last summer, when I went to pay for a tankful of gas with a gift card that the cashier rejected, the young man behind me in line offered to take care of my bill.  I could have paid with a credit card, or even cash, but by this point in my life I had learned a valuable lesson: let a man be chivalrous.  I asked his name and thanked him sincerely as the cashier ran his card for both our bills.  He accepted my gratitude quietly and immediately left after signing the receipt.  As he drove away, the cashier informed me that my quiet benefactor was a soldier on leave.  Two minutes ago I had been steaming mad at this coarse woman with greasy hair, for rejecting my gift card.  But at that moment, we were drawn together in appreciation for a good deed.  "God bless him," she muttered as we stood watching the soldier's pick-up drive out of sight.  Yes, God bless him--whoever he is.

Then there was the scholarship from an anonymous donor while in Bible college.  And the self-sacrificing way an upper-classman I didn't know from Adam sat down and took the time to get to know me, when I was previewing the college.  (This one didn't stay a stranger; I count her among my closest friends today.)  And the compliment a toll-booth worker paid me on a long, lonely drive.  "Has anyone ever told you you have gorgeous eyes?" from a high school-age boy is a good deed that will perk up a tired female traveler for a good many mile.

This is just a sampling.

Here's to good deeds.  Here's to strangers who--perhaps without realizing it--are agents of God's grace in our lives.

And Christians, we've got some work to do.  Let's get busy.

What's your story of a stranger's good deed?

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