Christlikeness at the Chrysler Dealership

This morning I had a chance to practice a minimal degree of Christlikeness. But it didn’t start this morning.

It was somewhere around 1983. I was single, living in an apartment, and not exactly pulling in big bucks. One Friday I arrived home from work to find my electricity had been turned off. The relevant office was closed. I would need to wait until Monday to get it taken care of.

I’d been reading something about how Christians should treat people (can’t remember specifically what it was, now), and I knew this was a test to see how I would respond. So when I showed up first thing Monday morning, I didn’t mention how I’d been inconvenienced, that I’d been using outlets in the hallway all weekend, and that I lost everything (which wasn’t much) in my freezer. I could have made a real indignant scene. Lots of people, Christians and non, thrive on making a scene when they feel they’ve been wronged.

But that’s not Christlike.

I just very nicely told what had happened and produced my cancelled checks. The lady looked it up. Yep, their error, and they would get my electricity turned on right away. She sort of apologized. I thanked her, said I really appreciated them taking care of it, and went on my way without demanding some kind of compensation for my spoiled food. I left feeling very good about having remained civil.

That experience set a pattern which I’ve repeated many, many times over the years in similar situations. Which brings us to today.

Last Friday, O’Daniel’s, a Chrysler dealership, replaced my bad fuel pump. This morning, on my way to work, I stopped at the gas station. Four gallons later, I noticed a splashing sound. I looked down and saw gas pouring out underneath my pickup. I quickly turned off the pump. Hmmm, what to do.

I pushed the truck away from the pump, and mentioned the spill to the attendant. Then, on fumes, I drove to O’Daniel’s. I could have made a big scene–how they didn’t get it right, how their mistake cost me $17 in gas, how I would be late for work and had oh so much to do, how the truck could have caught on fire and left me disfigured or my wife a widow….

But that wouldn’t be Christlike.

Instead, I kindly explained what had happened, and asked if they could look at it right away. I also mentioned that the Check Engine light had been on all weekend. Could they look at that, too? Thanks, I appreciate it.

They quickly found the gas-leak problem and fixed it (no charge, of course). And 20 minutes later, I was on my way.

I stopped at the nearest gas station, just down the road. No leakage. BUT, the Check Engine light remained on. Phooey. I drove back to O’Daniel’s.

When I pulled into the service bay, the service people had an “Uh oh” look. The service manager, a woman who had always treated me real well, came right out to the truck with a dire expression, expecting to get the riot act for something or other. She asked what was wrong. Again, I COULD have ripped her about how I was being inconvenienced, about how incompetent they were, about how I would never use or recommend them again, about how I would be even later for work, blah blah blah. Stuff she hears every day, I imagine.

But that wouldn’t be Christlike.

With a cheerful demeanor, I explained that the Check Engine light was still on, and I thought I might as well bring it back. She took the truck immediately, while I (again) grabbed my laptop and headed for their nice customer lounge (with free Wi-Fi). Within 10 minutes, she came to get me. It was just a matter of clearing a computer code.

She apologized for the trouble. Again, she was just waiting for me to pummel her. Instead, to set her at ease, I chuckled. “No problem,” I said. “Things happen. Thanks for taking care of it so quickly.”

And I drove off. I couldn’t help hoping she was thinking, “I wish all of our customers were like that.”

In American society, we’re so caught up in our rights, our entitlements, our expectations. When things fall short, we think it’s perfectly acceptable to chew people out. Especially in business relationships, like in relating to service people. We feel entitled to be demanding and, when our demands aren’t met, caustic and demeaning. Christians do that as much as nonChristians. We’ve all seen that.

Now, I can be stern and straightforward. Sometimes it’s necessary. There is a place for being stern and straightforward. But there is never a place for being unChristlike.

Jesus taught about denying ourselves. About treating others better than we are treated. About giving and loving way beyond what anyone else would expect. About going the extra mile. He suffered and died because of problems he didn’t cause. So the least I could do was to accept some inconvenience from the O’Daniels people without getting bent all out of shape.

That service manager at O’Daniels will never know that my attitude was rooted in being a Christian. I didn’t mention my faith in any way. But God and angels and demons were all watching, and they knew. It’s a little thing, but a tiny spark of Christlikeness, a few molecules of the real thing, won the day, and that’s always makes Jesus smile.

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