The other day Amy and I witnessed a Christian doing their part to spread the good news. It was such an uncomfortable situation it made me want to crawl right out of my skin. With a mixture of heartache and anger, I left that situation feeling anything but love. Let me backup and set the stage for you.
An otherwise peaceful time in the dry sauna of our local rec center, we were enjoying the confines of its cedar walls and 172℉ temps. Enter our soon to be victim, let’s call him Vinay. A middle-aged man with a friendly demeanor, Vinay sat next to me, exchanged a nod, and even cracked a joke. A few others came and went in the several minutes that passed. Enter our subject; we’ll call her Bianca.
Bianca was quiet and reserved… at first. In hindsight, her outward appearance should have alluded to the fact her personality was anything but reserved. In less than five minutes, Bianca was passionately discussing hair styles with Vinay. A seemingly benign subject, yet it was one of those awkward conversations where you don’t know if one person is intentionally trying to belittle the other or it just comes naturally to them. Whatever the case, Amy and I had fortunately hit our 10 minute mark and it was time to go cool off.
Outside the sauna is a shower. When we’re done our heat cycle we go stand under the cold water for a bit. After that, we sit down just outside the sauna to relax a few minutes before packing up and heading home. Our time was cut short by Vinay’s abrupt exit from the sauna.
Sitting next to us again, he was in his chair for all of about three seconds before Binaca rushes out, basically yelling at him. I didn’t catch everything she said verbatim, there was something about praying for a family member in trouble, but here are some of the phrases I feel like I do remember:
“Do you know the Holy Spirit?!”
“It’s what we do! We pray for people!”
“What’s your name?!”
In the middle of being grilled by Bianca, and with the most uncomfortable look on his face, Vinay hurriedly excused himself, got up, and left. We were already leaving as that conversation was just too uncomfortable to be around. Last I remember was seeing Bianca’s face. She was clearly worked up and frustrated looking. In hindsight, I’m still glad we left at that exact moment because here’s what I actually wanted to say to her at the time:
“How’d that work out for you?”
“Thanks for making the rest of us Christians look like nut jobs.”
“You know, what you just did is the reason so many have a bad taste about the church.”
Those are not good responses, I know. I myself got worked up just being in the vicinity of that conversation. The best I came up with shortly afterwards was to process my feelings with God and then pray for both Bianca, Vinay, and every other evangelical encounter to ever take place throughout the world.
Compelled by Love
Have you ever witnessed something similar? It reminds me of a movie scene where someone is being suffocated to death with a pillow. Maybe that’s an appropriate analogy because a pillow is supposed to bring comfort, not suffocate you to death. The good news is Jesus, and my version of Jesus doesn’t jump out from behind a bush, tackling you, holding you down, and yell at you to believe in him. Maybe yours is different?
The Jesus I know woos us. His love is fragrant and attractive. He could just be in corner of the room not saying a word and cause every eye to take notice of him. He’s interested in you as a human being, and wants you to be his friend not his servant. He’s patient and kind, even in his discipline. He loves those who accept him as Savior right away just as much as those who wait until their dying breath to do so. His love is so great, we can’t even comprehend it in our wildest imagination.
If the essence of the good news is Jesus, and Jesus came to demonstrate the love of God, how then do we spread the gospel? Do you ask them if they know Jesus within the first ten minutes of meeting? Is it spread across a years worth of sharing coffee once per week? Is it not until your co-worker asks why you’re always so peaceful even when things aren’t going so well?
Here’s my default answer to all of the above, it depends. it depends on what the Holy Spirit is doing. God has a plan and a purpose for everything. It would behoove us to get in touch with Him first; maybe His plans for the person in front of you are the exact opposite of what you feel compelled to do under your own desires. Whatever they may be, His plans always stem from His love for us.
That day Vinay didn’t seem to feel loved, and neither did Bianca. Yet, that’s looking at the situation through my own lenses. Perhaps it looked quite different from Jesus’ perspective. There’s something interesting about love, whether young or old, male or female, gay, straight, atheist, conservative, or liberal, we all know the feeling of being loved. The good news is this story isn’t over.
Wherever Bianca and Vinay are right this very moment, God is at work in each of their lives. He’s an opportunist and uses every situation, even this one, to draw us closer to Himself. I was fortunate enough to witness a brief moment in a timeline of God wooing them, and probably me as well.