He seemed nice when we first met. I found him interesting. We had a good conversation.
I learned he was a street preacher. As we had continued to talk I realized he was a confrontational one. That made me uncomfortable.
Then the conversation turned to the possibility of us dating. I told him while I would love to remain friends, Even though he had been very nice to me, I didn't ever see the relationship progressing beyond friendship, based on what I already knew about our differences.
I was polite. I didn’t even go into any explanation of my feelings on street preaching and there was no reason to do so at that time. I knew we had very different callings in this world.
His tone changed immediately as I said no to dating, even though I was open to friendship and not closing any doors, but the street preacher came out. His immediate in-my-face response was
- I was not a Christian.
- My theology was off.
- Jesus called us into action (ie street preaching) in John 3:16 and I wasn’t doing what God said to do there.
- I was “religious” (which was evidently a bad thing?)
- I don’t read my Bible; and
- He (this guy) “lived it” and I “walked by”.
I responded. Of course, I did. I felt as though it was an attack out of nowhere, though the words "be kind" drummed through my head as I responded. I could have possibly had an interesting conversation with him if he wasn’t immediately antagonistic and disrespectful to me. He put up huge walls and didn’t appear ready to listen. Therefore I met his one-sided comments with a one-sided reply of my own.
I told him:
- I am a Christian. God knows it, as do I. His opinion didn't matter, though if he listened to God and got to know me, he'd see it, too.
- John 3:16 talks about me believing and what God has done so I can. It doesn't mention any other action required on my part. I wasn't quite sure why that verse was the one he chose to lean on there.
- He used "religious" as an insult to me, which I didn't understand. God says religion is taking care of widows and orphans, and keeping ourselves from being polluted by the world. I don't consider it an insult in the least.
- I not only read my Bible, but I listen to God, and we communicate. Regularly.
- For me, evangelism is living my life in this world without hiding. Simply as me, a Christian. A pretty imperfect one, but hopefully a very transparent one who loves people where they are and allows them to see that we don't have to be shiny and perfect to be loved and used.
- I didn’t respond to the theology thing. Yes, my theology probably is off in some places. Most of us will probably find that to be true one day. I learn more about God every day and align my mind accordingly. But this guy didn't have enough information about me to make any judgment on my theology. It wasn't necessary for me to defend it or worth discussing at the moment.
I’m admittedly not a fan of most street preaching. I believe quite often it’s more about someone making themselves the center of attention rather than getting to know people and finding out what their needs are.
I don’t being yelled at and baited with loud questions and comments simply because I walk by someone. I don’t like to be taunted and I don’t like people assuming they know who I am and where I stand when they have never bothered to try to get to know me. Certainly, this behavior does not reflect all street preachers, but it does reflect many I have encountered along the way.
But I am not against all street preachers. I know people whose lives have been changed by them, though usually, that tended to come from the street preacher getting off their soapbox and having a true and honest discussion with the person. Meeting them where they were. I have known a few that had amazing hearts for people, and a gift for public oratory, that drew people instead of offended them.
God has not called us all to live our faith the same, so I try not to judge or assume just because it is not what I am supposed to do. no one is supposed to do it. While it’s not usually appealing to me, I believe sometimes they are called and used by God. But it is not something that God has called me to do or actively support. In fact, I tend to be someone who people call to discuss it when they have run into it and have been offended, hurt, or angered by it.
I believe in evangelism. The center of my life is my faith. It’s hard for someone to know who I am if I start hiding it, just as it’s hard for me to get to know who they really are, and what they believe if they don’t share it with me.
Wherever you are in your journey, whatever you believe, whoever you are, you don’t have to clean up when I come around and become something you’re not. You get to be yourself. I love a lot of people who don’t believe as I believe and who aren’t very much like me at all. I wasn't put in a diverse world to hang out with only my clones. I'm to live out in the world, with all that entails.
I’ll never scream at you for having different beliefs than me. I won’t stay in your face until you repent. If you don't want to talk about it, I respect you. If you do want to talk, I'm here.
All people believe in something. Some haven’t quite figured out what that is. Some have, and it isn’t the same God as me. There’s something driving our choices, the way we live our lives, and the way we reconcile this world in our minds. Whatever it is, it interests me and I’d like you to tell me your thoughts. I hope that if I am your friend, what I believe interests you, too.
It seems to me that in God's infinite wisdom we were given free choice to decide what we believe and how we live our lives. It would be a bit crazy if I tried to change this to suit me. I wouldn’t because I don’t disagree with God's wisdom. I watch God at work, and I trust that's best for us all.
I don’t have to go preach out on a street corner to believe in the power of John 3:16. I think Mr. Street Preacherman is kind of missing the best point of that verse. Eternal life is a free gift. We have the freedom to accept it or reject it. But if I accept it, I don’t have to pay for it, I don’t have to be good enough for it, I don’t have to work it off, I don’t have to fit in any sort of little Christian mold or judge the journey of others.
My mirror shows me I’m not perfect. But I acknowledge my faith and my calling and listen to God's direction instead of the blasts of another human. It doesn't matter what the street preacher says.
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