Monday, November 22, 2004

209 A Christian and Muslim Talk about Good Deeds

She was still fuming in the parking lot; I could hear her slamming her 12 packs of soda and bags of chips into the back of the SUV. I wheeled my cart to the corral which was next to her vehicle and said, “I apologize for holding you up in the store; usually he doesn’t talk. I‘m really sorry.” “Yeah, whatever,” she snarled.

There was no one behind me at the check out when the clerk and I were comparing what God expects of us in the area of good deeds--I had asked him to separate my food pantry items because I was taking them to church on Thanksgiving Day. He then told me that as a Muslim he had an angel on his right shoulder keeping track of his good deeds, and an angel on his left shoulder tracking his bad deeds, and he hoped that at the end of his life, the totals would work in his favor and he would be allowed into Paradise, but first (difficult to hear because of his accent) he’d have to go to hell for awhile during the computation period. “Are you worried about this?” I asked. “Oh yes, I’m so afraid to do anything bad, and now they are using computers.” (Picture here angels with laptops!) “We Christians believe we are already forgiven for our sins because of Jesus death on the cross, but we too will be asked to account for our deeds on Judgment Day,” I offered. “However, there are many Christians who believe as you do--that they will have to be very good to get into heaven.”

By then, some other shoppers were in my line, looking worried and anxious and glancing at their watches. I’d asked for paper bags which don’t work well in the new turn style system, and then he started doing “something bad,” maybe not in the eyes of the angels, but in their eyes--telling me about the long ordeal to get to the United States, his five years here, and his desire to be a citizen. I heard about the brother who sponsored him, and who will be sponsoring another brother and sister back in Pakistan who are waiting to immigrate. I heard about his selling all his property and worldly goods, about how his file was “lost” for 13 years until the family came up with the money to bribe someone (wasn’t sure if this was in Pakistan or the U.S.)

“See you next week,” I said after getting my change and heading for the parking lot. Although I apologized there (asked forgiveness) to the woman waiting behind me in line, she didn’t offer any forgiveness. Nor is it required. She’ll probably stew about it all day, and tell that story at work or over dinner tonight. Her stomach will be in knots and her blood pressure high, because she wouldn’t forgive. That’s the difference between asking God for forgiveness and asking my neighbor for forgiveness. My neighbor can spit in my face or say, “Yeah, whatever,” and choose to be miserable. God has to forgive me for the sake of Jesus Christ, for all my sins past, present, future. Unlike Muslims, we Christians have the assurance that God is faithful and just and will do what he promised.

No comments: