I ate my lunch outside at Chipotle while reading a book today. I chose Chipotle at the expense of all of the other restaurants in Peoria because of their delicious food and their outdoor seating. As I walked outside, I noticed an unattended bag of chips with accompanying salsa on one of the tables. I was pretty sure that this table was taken, so I chose to sit as far away from the bag as possible. I didn’t want the humans that belonged to this bag of chips to distract me from my reading.
A little bit later, a couple of guys came around the corner and sat at a table adjacent to mine with their food from Chick-Fil-A. I assume that they made a mistake when they chose what to eat and were trying to redeem themselves by (at least) sitting at Chipotle. Maybe their presence at Chipotle would rub off on them and they could walk back to their car feeling as though they had eaten good food for lunch.
One of the guys who works at Chipotle came outside shortly after these two traitors sat down and asked me how everything was. I grunted something to the effect of, “Really good,” and kept eating and reading. But I couldn’t help but notice the bag of chips and cup of salsa the guy was holding. I was fairly certain that he was going to give me the chips to show the traitors that eating at Chipotle is truly the optimum choice. But, instead, he took the free chips and salsa over to the table housing the traitors, the one’s who were late to the party with the wrong thing to eat. He said, “I know you didn’t choose to eat our food, but here’s some free chips and salsa for you to enjoy.”
What!? Not me!? I’m the one who chose Chipotle! I’m the one who wants to fully participate in this party! I’m the one who deserves those chips, not them! I was actually startled by my inner anger at this demonstration of generosity, and then I started thinking about what had just transpired.
In Matthew 20, Jesus tells a story of workers who are hired to work a day in the Master’s vineyard, and I lived this parable out in real time. I chose Chipotle because I wanted to eat good food in a good environment. I was there because I wanted to be there. The Chick-Fil-A guys were there, too, but they didn’t want to eat good food. They had settled on eating less than good food because they didn’t know any better. But, instead of “paying” me more, the one who belonged at Chipotle, the one in charge gave the gift of Chipotle to the guys who didn’t deserve that gift. I was already willingly participating in the goodness of Chipotle. I didn’t need more goodness. The Chick-Fil-A guys needed a small taste of that goodness. They were being invited to taste and see how good Chipotle is, so they don’t want to settle for less than good again. It was staggering.
And that’s what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. It’s like a worker at Chipotle, who, knowing some had not tasted the goodness of Chipotle, freely gives the gift of Chipotle to all that would show up to the party, whether they belong there or not.
Brian McLaren talks about the sacrifice that Jesus made for all humanity as a gift that is fully given, but not yet widely opened and enjoyed. That we all have been given this salvation, but we have not all started to experience and enjoy it. This thought started dancing in my mind, wondering about whether it was true or not when I saw the table housing the bag of chips and cup of salsa. No one was there to enjoy them.
So, what of the unattended bag of chips and salsa? I imagine they were freely given to whomever was sitting outside before I arrived. But were they not received? Did the person who was given the free gift leave goodness just sitting there on the table? Does that happen?
The very fact of the unopened, untouched, bag of chips and cup of salsa was also hard to wrap my mind around. I had to account for them somehow. So, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a worker at Chipotle, who, knowing some had not tasted the goodness of Chipotle, freely gives the gift of Chipotle to all that would show up to the party, whether they belong there or not. But some of those who were at the party chose not to receive the gift, and left the party and the gift unopened on the table.
They settled for less, and it is this way because the Kingdom of Heaven does not impose itself on you. It does not require you to respond. It’s right there, on the table, and its yours to freely enjoy in your own time at your own pace. And you can walk away from it. I don’t really know what that means, but I know that its true.
May we widely open and enjoy the free gift that we all have been given: the goodness, peace, or shalom, that God is plotting and planning to bring to full completion in and through us.