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250 McDonald's drive-thru customers 'pay it forward'

McDonalds french fries alongside a Big Mac and another unidentified sandwich at a McDonalds in London (Credit: AP/PA Wire/Steve Parsons)Marisabel Figueroa probably started her shift at the Lakeland, Florida McDonalds where she works expecting that day to be like any other. However, one woman's generosity set off a chain reaction that, several hours later, would leave her saying that she'd "never experienced something like that before." It all started when Torie Keene decided to pay for the order of the car behind her and specifically asked Figueroa to tell the driver Merry Christmas, rather than Happy Holidays, when she delivered the news of the free meal.

As the cashier described, when the other driver was told that her meal had been paid for, she was so grateful that she decided to do the same for the driver behind her. The pattern continued for almost the entirety of Figueroa's six-hour shift, as some 250 customers decided to "pay it forward."

"I just kept giving everyone the same message, and they were all so stunned and so happy,” Figueroa explained. “One lady even paid for the meals of the next three cars behind her."

After a local news station picked up the story, Keene contacted Figueroa via Facebook to express her surprise, saying that she was "only trying to brighten someone's day." It seems clear that she did that and more as the story has now made national headlines.

The thing is, most of the people that experienced the gift of a free meal and decided to continue it paid roughly what they expected to pay when they arrived at the drive-thru window. The difference is that, because someone had already covered their debt, their actions from that point forward became voluntary rather than necessary. They were given the freedom not to pay but chose to use that freedom for the betterment of others rather than just themselves.

It's a living example of the mentality Paul describes in his first letter to the Corinthians when he spends the majority of the Epistle writing on the need to think of others before yourself and to place their rights above your own (1 Corinthians 6-14). He is clear that we are not called to make that choice out of an obligation to them but in order to simply be better representatives of Christ in their lives. As he wrote to the Galatians, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).

Because of Christ's sacrifice, we have been set free from the burdens of the Law. Will we use that freedom to model the kind of life to which he has called us or will we view his grace as a license for disobedience? How we answer that question speaks volumes about the nature of our relationship with God, and an unbelieving world is watching closely for our response.

So this Christmas season, let's be intentional about using the freedom that God has granted us for his purposes rather than our own. Our heavenly Father has given us the gift of unhindered access to himself through Christ and asked us to "pay it forward" by helping others to understand that offer as well. Will you?

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