Trying to be efficient, Ken dropped us off at Wendy’s to get food while he went to fill the tank. As we piled out, Cole said, “Dad, can I grab my bag in back?”

It was much warmer here than in KY, several hours ago, and he wanted to change. But as Cole moved a couple of bags to find his, a parked car began backing toward our van. Ken honked, but the car persisted in coming. It looked like he was going to try to angle back and squeeze around the front of our van.

Not wanting to risk this, Ken lurched forward with the trunk still up, and Cole and I moved out of the impatient driver’s way. As he neared us, he rolled his window down and said in a southern drawl, “They have parking places for a reason. Just sayin’.” Then he sped off.

What a southern gentleman, right? He didn’t have the 10 seconds to wait for us to get out of his way, but he did have enough time to fling these kindly words out his car window.

As we walked into Wendy’s, I said, “Knoxville, TN is not a nice place.”

Just hours before, I had walked out of Target saying, “Lexington, KY is such a nice place.” It was just after a friendly young guy had bantered cheerfully with us as he rang up our purchases.

These two young men, of similar age and appearance, caused me to have completely opposite opinions of the towns they represented. Of course, nobody selected them to be town ambassador. But to me, the reputation of Knoxville, TN and Lexington, KY rested solely on the shoulders of these young men.

Perhaps that’s not fair. And given more encounters, I’m sure I could be persuaded differently. But we tend to generalize. We tend to make assumptions about an entire group of people based on the one person we have encountered.

This was true, even in the apostle Paul’s day, and this is why he wrote to the people who would be representing Jesus and their church to the city of Colossae,

Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Colossians 4:5-6.

You probably aren’t an elected town ambassador either. But if you say you’re a Christian, people make assumptions about Jesus and his Church based on even a simple comment you might toss out your car window. You’re a representative. What do people conclude, based on encounters with you?

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