I was sitting at a stop light eating my Bojangles steak biscuit (must be experienced can’t be explained), sipping sweet tea through a straw and checking my email. It was a long light. I looked up and a piece of shit pick-up truck that looked a lot like my piece of shit truck only with more rust and less bumper stickers was in front of me to the right. Stuck to his back glass, dead center was the sticker above. There it is I thought, the summation in nine simple words of how I feel about some of the so-called Christians I meet.
Many, many years ago I was working in sales for a company that was really struggling. The economy wasn’t good and we were basically giving our services away. Prior to us beginning any work for someone we required them to sign a contract which detailed our obligations and theirs, namely that they would pay us within 30 days after the work was completed.
I received a call from a local car dealer who wanted us to do some work for him, actually a lot of work. Given that I was young, poor and starving I was beyond excited. If it all worked out it would be the biggest commission I had ever gotten. I wrote the contract up and took it to him to sign.
A little context here, this was my second job out of college. My wardrobe consisted of a blue suit, a brown suit and five white shirts (thanks mom and dad). The car dealer was very successful, big office, really big desk, with awards and pictures of him with celebrates seemingly filling every square inch of space on his walls and in his massive bookcase behind him. I was pretty intimidated.
He looked over the contract and gave it back to me. “I am not going to sign it.” Dejected, I put the paperwork back in my cheap briefcase and prepared to leave. In my head I had already spent the commission I was expecting for this sale. “I am not going to sign the contract but I still want you to do the work” he continued, “I am a Christian, and my word is my bond, you don’t need a contract for that”. I explained that I was not in a position to make that kind of decision but that I would get an answer for him. He added curtly, “I want a decision today”.
My sales manager was not happy but he was desperate to have something, any kind of work to put on his report. He agreed but told me to follow it closely. We performed the services for the car dealer, and he confirmed he was pleased with the work we had done. I gave him our invoice and I headed to our controller to pick-up my BIG commission check. The way our company was set-up is that salespeople were paid after the work was done not after it was paid for. Seems like stupid system but I wasn’t going to argue. But here is the catch, if the work is not paid for after 120 days, the salesperson has to pay all of the commission back.
The “I am a Christian” car dealer wouldn’t pay. For 110 days he wouldn’t return my phone calls, respond to my letters, my faxes (there was a time before email), and wouldn’t see me at his office. So on day 118, two days before I had to write a check back to the company for money I didn’t have, I camped out at his office and waited for him to pull in to his reserved parking spot.
When he opened his car door I was standing there. I asked him why wouldn’t he pay? Had we not delivered what we had promised? I didn’t understand what the problem was and would he please explain? And then this “I am a Christian” man uttered these words “You want your money, sue me. If you will check your files, you don’t have a contract. Get off my property.”
My sales manager, who is still a good friend thirty years later, took pity on me and set up a payment plan allowing me to pay the company back over a year. After about six months he just forgave the balance. I never forgot how the car dealer treated me and followed his business career with interest. About five years after our encounter he lost all three of his dealerships. The banks took them over and sold them to a big national auto chain. I would guess when he told them “You want your money, sue me” that they were more than happy to oblige.
I didn’t view this as redemption. I don’t wish misery or failure on anyone but it certainly jaded me early on in my business career. I have met many others just like him over the course of thirty years but now I just grab my wallet and run like hell in the other direction. Yes, Jesus loved him, but everybody else, including me, thinks he is an asshole.