“The lady in the car in front of you paid for yours.”
It’s my favorite thing to say at work, these days. As the newly appointed official drive-thru guy at my Starbucks, I get to become an evangelist every time she comes through my line. I take the good news that a debt has been paid, and I deliver it to the car behind her.
Some people try and shoot the messenger. One guy insisted that I take his money. I pointed at the tip jar and said that if he wanted to put it in there, he was welcomed to, but that I couldn’t put it in my cash register. “I don’t take handouts” were his exact words. I explained that it wasn’t a handout, but a gift from the stranger in front of him. He apparently wasn’t big on handouts OR gratuity, as he didn’t put the money in the tip jar either, but left upset that he couldn’t pay. Really.
Most people are just excited. Sometimes it starts an entire wave of paying it forward. But it’s always fun for me, as the messenger.
That’s precisely what evangelism is*. It’s in the root of the definition of the word. An evangel in the ancient near-east was a messenger sent with news (usually of military victory) to share with people. The most famous evangelist in history (the story goes) ran 26.2(ish) miles to Athens from the battle of Marathon, to announce that the Greeks had defeated the Persians (in a come from behind upset). The point is, an evangelist is one who shares news that dramatically affects the hearers. Either they are now slaves to the Persians, or free people.
Either you owe me 4 bucks for your Café Mocha or you don’t. The news affects you, but it’s not instruction, it’s just news. The Athenians don’t have to do anything to be free people, not enslaved to the Persians.
The guy who just had his cappuccino paid for doesn’t have to do anything but take the drink. (and he doesn’t even have to do that… his receiving it doesn’t change the fact that it’s paid for.)
The good news is that his debt is paid, and there’s nothing he can do about it.
*all deep theological insights were directly stolen from Tim Keller. Buy his books. Seriously.