Tonight as Glenn and I placed our order in a steakhouse while traveling, we noticed a couple of elderly ladies at a nearby booth. They were having a sweet little argument with a patient waiter about their bill. I noticed that they had brought their own soft drinks into the restaurant with them. They had packed up their leftovers in take-out boxes and the waiter was also bringing them to-go cups filled with ice. But they were arguing over something that involved a two-dollar charge on the tab. The waiter kept explaining and re-explaining how the two-dollar charge in question was appropriate and had only been applied once. One of the ladies was going through her purse and counting out change.
Glenn and I started to worry that maybe the ladies had been presented with a bill that was just a bit more than they’d brought with them, so Glenn took a bill from his wallet and asked me to go over and give it to the waiter and ask him to apply it to the tab of the ladies in that second booth. To my surprise, when I handed the waiter the money, while he was in the corner at the register, he replied quietly, “But someone else has already taken care of their bill.”
I’m glad I live in a country in which there are still so many good people. In this particular case, if we wanted to help people who seemed to be in need, we literally had to stand in line. I recall my brother-in-law relating a similar scenario. Upon driving up to the window at a fast food restaurant to pay for their order, the cashier said, “The car in front of you paid for yours.”
My brother-in-law said “Well, let me apply this for the car behind me.”
The cashier then said, “Thank-you, sir. You are the seventh car straight that has paid it forward.”
My mother-in-law was at the grocery store today. She ran into a sister from a neighboring congregation. Both of them had lost children to death, my mother-in-law having lost our Laura only last week. They hugged and wept together there in the store. When my mother-in-law got to the check-out line, she found that her groceries had already been paid for by the sister who had just offered her comfort and empathy.
Our world is a fallen world, but the influence of its Redeemer has lifted many to a place of goodness and altruism. People, some of whom have never obeyed the gospel, are often still guided by its principles and the ever-broadening influence of the Christ, whose 33 years on the earth have reached with a massive impact to every single day of every year since that ministry. As Christians, we should always be on the lookout for redemption opportunities. We should redeem time (Ephesians 5:16). We should redeem (cash in on) circumstances that allow us to help people in need. We should redeem chances to tell people the saving gospel. We should redeem our material possessions, investing them into projects and purposes that will outlive us and extend their worth into eternity.
“Well I never expected that to happen!” were the words of the lady in booth 2, when the waiter returned to her table. Redemption, the saving from mess-ups or errors, large and small, on behalf of others is usually like that: The redeemed never expect it to happen. In this instance, I’m sure she never even knew that there was more than one party trying to help with her need.
But the largest and most undeserved redemption of all is especially shocking to its recipients. In this case, there was only One who could pay the price–not a tab at the table, but the price for my sin. That requirement to satisfy justice was/is eternal death and there was just One–the just One–who had the wherewithal to pay.
And He did! May I spend my days praising Him for the cancelled debt. May I show my “receipt” to everyone who will take the time to look at it.
“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…” (Psa. 107:2).