In my last post several people commented that my fear of sharing that I am pastor ruined an opportunity to witness; which reminded me of a story…
My Internal Conflict
A few months ago I was in the Austin airport with my family. We were in between flights on our way to my brother’s wedding in Dallas. We had just finished the long leg of the trip from Baltimore to Texas. As we de-boarded the plane the kids were cheering. Sitting quietly in a cramped chair is tough for me; even harder for my six, four, and two year olds…not to mention my pregnant wife.
The kids were so excited to be freed from the constraints of the flying prison of no fun. It broke their little spirits to find out that we were just taking a short break and then getting right back on; but they perked right back up when I pulled them over to an empty corner of the airport and told them to run wild.
The abandon area was clearly part of the airport’s attempt to become a hip and cool place to chill. The center piece was a small, bright red, round table about knee-high. Around it were five small circular stools. While it was attractive, it looked really out-of-place. Like a corvette in a used car lot, or a Santa Clause at Mc Donalds in the Fall; it just felt weird, but the kids didn’t care. To them it was the perfect circular racetrack. I sat off to the side in a row of chairs that looked as if they belonged in an airport while my kids sprinted around and around the hip table thing.
After about four laps something caught my daughter’s eye. She snatched a small book off the table and brought it over to me. The booklet was a cartoon witnessing track entitled “Guilty.” Someone had clearly left it on the table hoping someone who didn’t know Jesus would pick it up, read it, and be inspired to give their lives to follow Him.
The story was of a judge that saved a young boys life. Later the boy grew up to be a murderer. He thought he would get off because the judge had saved his life. Unfortunately when the boy comes to trial the judge explains that his feelings for the boy he once saved are trumped by the law. In the end the judge sentences the boy to death by lethal injection. The cartoon then goes onto explain that God is Holy and unless you repent and accept Jesus you will also be sentenced to death…its the law.
I closed the booklet and went to hand it to my daughter. Then suddenly time froze. A tiny version of me appeared on my shoulder. His hair was messed up; his beard unkept; and he wore blue jeans and a black tee-shirt that read, “Institutions Suck!” (For the remainder of the post we shall call him Progressive Emergent Angry Cynic – or Peac for short.) “Tell her to throw it in the garbage so no one else reads that goo,” Peac said.
“NO! Tell her to put it back on the table. What if someone gets saved through it?” said another mini-version of me on my opposite shoulder. He was dressed in a suit and worn a red power tie. His hair was parted nicely. (For the remainder of the post we shall call him Traditional Optimistic Naive Baptist – or Tonb for short.)
“Seriously? You believe someone is going to get “saved” with that?” Peac said making exaggerated air quotes around the word saved.
“Yeah. It’s possible,” Tonb defended.
“What’s more possible is that a hundred people are going to walk by, glance down at it, and moan in disgust. Scare tactics like that little book enforce stereo types and push people away from God,” Peac said with an indignant grin.
“Now wait,” Tonb said with frustration. “The person that put that there had beautiful intentions. He/she believed that by doing so they might be sharing the good news of Jesus with someone. You think you are better than them because you’ve read fancy statistics? At least they are trying. You assume that people will be turned off by it; but you don’t know what God is going to use. Maybe he told that person to put it there.”
“Yeah because Jesus’ good news was, ‘Hey kids, you can escape hell,'” Peac struck back interrupting. “You show me one place where Jesus looked at someone with no relationship to God and talked about Hell. One place. It never happened. He saved His hell talk for religious people that did stupid things like placing tracks on tables trying to scare people into legalistic signing on to follow God. God doesn’t work that way.”
“Whoa! Who are you to say how God can and cannot work?” Tonb replied with amazement. “Hell is real and time is running out. Don’t you care about those around you? Don’t you care that they know Jesus? Or are you to busy being complicated and deep to give a flip about anyone around you?”
“Let’s stick to one debate at a time. We can chat about Hell some other day. And of course I care. Of course I want those around me to know Christ. But this junk,” Peac said motioning to the track, “it doesn’t lead people to Christ. It leads them to get false fire insurance. There is no relationship contained in that book. It simply scares people into signing up for something they don’t understand. They say some magic words, think they are cool with God, and go on their way. There is no surrender there. No one is counting the costs. No one is taking the cross seriously.”
“Now wait a minute! No one said this was the only step someone needed. No one said this was the end all of relationship. It is simply an introduction. Who are you to sit in judgement of others? Who are you to look down your nose at them? Do you think you are better than them? Do you think you know more or are somehow enlightened? Do you have a better idea? Someone left this because they care. Is this ideal? No. But at least they are trying. What do you do besides sip coffee and talk crap all day?”
“Now wait!” yelled Peac. “I try! I’ve devoted my life to trying! Best intentions don’t mean it is right. What is it tracks like this say all the time, ‘Best intentions are the first step on the road to hell.’ Junk like this is why the church is struggling. Bad theology. Bad tactics. Bad leadership!” With the last statement Peac turned his back on Tonb as a statement of condemnation.
Suddenly Tonb screamed in furry, “Judgemental jerk!” Reaching up and grabbing a piece of my hair he swung to my other shoulder hoping to kick Peac in the chest; but Peac was ready and received tackled Tonb mid-swing. They fell to the floor wrestling and yelling.
I look up at Julianna and said, “Thanks Sis. Can you go put this back on the table for Daddy?”
To be continued…