I was waiting in the doctor’s office (at the VA Clinic) earlier this week, an activity we retired folks do with increasing frequency. I don’t see much sense in just sitting when there are people to talk to, and so I struck up a conversation with the gentleman sitting next to me. He was wearing a mask with an American flag motif on it, and I told him how much I appreciated it.
I couldn’t help going a little further, though. He was also wearing a Florida State baseball cap, so I told him I didn’t appreciate the hat nearly as much as the mask. Truth be told, I had no problem with the hat, but I figured it might get a little conversation started.
That playful comment (I’m glad he took it playfully, because I did want to start a fight!) led to a lengthy conversation with a very fine man who happened to be a member of a United Methodist church in another city.
He told me he had felt called into ministry for many decades, but not ordained ministry, because he didn’t want his name “on a marquee.” He did have a goal in life, though: it was to lift somebody’s spirit every single day.
Well, he had already succeeded by 9:15 a.m. with that comment, and I left the VA Clinic wondering what the world would be like if everybody adopted and followed through on that veteran’s simple goal.
I am not downplaying theology. I am not dismissing dogma. I am not trying to lump all the world’s religions into one gooey conglomeration. I am not scorning traditionally lived, intellectually underpinned Christianity.
But sometimes we preachers and laypeople can get overwrought about the distinctions between law and grace, infant or adult baptism, whether the Lord’s Supper is a commemoration or the actual body of Jesus or whether it is permissible to clap hands in church. Don’t mistake me. I have strongly held opinions on each of these topics.
But lay aside all those deeply held tenets for a few minutes. Just lift somebody’s spirit each day. A Christian can do that. So can a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist or a person who says they are of “no religion.”
The person whose spirit has been lifted doesn’t care about the faith stance of the person who is his/her encourager/rescuer. The man lying in the ditch in Jesus’ parable didn’t care whether the person who rescued him was (so to speak) a Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, atheist or Rastafarian. He didn’t care whether the person who bound his wounds was pro-abortion or pro-life, put his hand over his heart for the National Anthem or took a knee, voted for Donald Trump or Joe Biden. The Samaritan didn’t audition people before selecting his savior.
Just lift somebody’s spirit. Do it today. Do it again tomorrow. Don’t make a big deal of it or draw attention to yourself. Cleave closely to your faith stance or lack thereof. But don’t let that get in the way of goodness. We can all be encouragers today.