Last year, 5,581 mail carriers were attacked by dogs. But I sincerely doubt that our mailman was one of them.
Of course, my opinion has only been formed only by what our little dog thinks of the mailman. And it’s true that our dog pretty much likes everyone.
Each day, when Diggory hears the mail truck coming down the street, he starts excitedly scratching to go out. Then, he goes as close to the mailbox as his electric fence will allow, and watches the truck get incrementally closer. He wags his tail expectantly, watching and waiting.
Just to set a baseline, this is not what Diggy does when Ken arrives home. Or the kids. Just the mailman.
It could have to do with the distinct sound of the mailman’s truck engine starting and stopping, as he makes his way down the street. But I’m pretty sure it has more to do with the way our mailman gets out of his truck with a treat, greets Diggy by name, and lets him slobber him.
In light of the 5,581 dog attacks last year, I think our mailman may be on to something. He certainly may carry some mace or a stick to ward off protective guard dogs, but I think he’s armed himself with something even more powerful: relationships. My dog sees him our mailman as friend. He doesn’t growl when the truck gets closer; he wags his tail! And I’ll bet other dogs do the same.
Like mail carriers, Christians have been tasked with delivering a message. It’s the most important message our neighbors and coworkers will ever receive–the Gospel. And in our eagerness, sometimes we rush in like a foolish junior mailman–first day on the job.
Not surprisingly, some people react like a guard dog. We’ve just crossed into their personal space–asking deeply personal questions about what their hope is built on. And so they snarl. They chase us off. But we comfort ourselves with reminders that Jesus said the world would hate us–which is true! I just wonder if we could make it less easy for the world to hate us.
I heard a pastor recently ask a large congregation to raise a hand if they had come to faith in Jesus Christ because of reading a Gospel tract. One hand went up. He then asked which of them had come to Jesus because a friend or family member had personally shared the Gospel. The vast majority of the people raised their hands.
This pastor was pointing out the power of relationship–which is the very thing that makes our mailman exceptional.
Relationships are built over time. Trust is established when you call someone by name day after day, and treat them once in a while. Relationship allows people to relax their guard, and not feel the need to defend their turf.
Making friends doesn’t minimize the risk of sharing the Gospel. In fact, it makes the risk greater, because now you might lose a friend, as opposed to making a random stranger hate you.
But effective Christians do what exceptional mail carriers do. They take the risk, first of making friends, and then of delivering the message.