The recent shooting incident at a Trader Joe’s market in Silver Lake, California, has an incredible inside story that is just now coming to light. You’ve got a man inside with a gun who has been wounded in the arm by an exchange of gunfire with police as he ran for cover into the store, with everyone inside suddenly becoming hostages. As fortune would have it, however, one of those hostages was a woman who was trained and qualified for moments like this. She moved quickly into action, speaking kindly to the man and enlisting help from other hostages to treat his wound. A trust was already developing. At one point she put her hand on the suspect’s heart. “When you put your hand on someone’s heart,” she said later in an interview, “it grounds them. I was trying to ground him, and manipulate him, yes, in the best way.”
I’m not suggesting that this woman is a Christian, or that her grace-inspired acts were from a place of faith, but I am sharing this story with you today, because so much of what she did can be an illustration of how Jesus wants us to act as his followers in the world. Touching someone’s heart, for insistence, is how grace turned outward behaves. It reaches someone at their deepest need and connects them to someone else, and, as she said, to the ground, meaning, it grounds you to the truth.
It was indeed a dangerous situation. The man was armed and wounded; emotions were stripped bare; anything could set him off. It took a great amount of courage to do what she did. Put her hand on his heart with a gun in his hand? He could have just as easily blown her away. Turning grace outward always takes courage. It takes courage to step out of our isolation and touch someone else. You never know what’s going to happen. When you respond to Jesus, the consequences are up to God, not us. You get shot for reaching out — you merely get to heaven sooner!
It takes courage to allow the Lord to work through you. Go ahead, step out of your isolation booth and join the adventure.
At one point the suspect told the woman he wished he had met her sooner. “I just needed someone to talk to.” You mean all of this could have been avoided with someone to talk to? Is it that simple? Sometimes it is. In our alienated, isolated culture, grace turned outward can change everything. You never know what you might be preventing by being kind and gracious and reaching out to another human being. Remember the guy who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and lived to tell the story that if one person had smiled at him on the way to the bridge, he wouldn’t have jumped? Sometimes it is that simple. Sometimes a smile can do that much.
One last thing. The report I read said that the woman had taken down the man’s named and birthdate so she could find him and visit him in prison, so he could have “someone to talk to.” Grace turned outward takes you way beyond what’s required or necessary, because it leads to a real relationship. That’s how God works. It’s that simple.