People Are Not Projects; People Are People.
Rain dripped down his thick-rimmed glasses as the words rolled out of his mouth,
And your lack of knowledge of a higher power is the most damning thing you will ever do in your life. . .
He was bundled in a thick winter jacket, crowds of people swirling around him like a rock in a riverbed. He had a thick KJV Bible clutched in his right hand, which he motioned to multiple times as he continued,
This is the living word of God, and you don’t know a single thing written inside it. Shame on you!
He was a burly man in his late fifties. His stomach stretched out from his waist and his deep voice carried over the hustle-and-bustle of thousands of individuals strolling down the main street of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Sir! Yes, you right there. Do you know where you would spend eternity if you died later today?
He was directing his attention now to a young man waiting with his friends for the light to turn so they could cross the street. The young man was paralyzed, not knowing how to respond, nor wanting to engage in a theological debate with this man on the street corner.
I didn’t think so! A prime example of the lack of knowledge people have of their Creator. Shame on you!
To the young man’s relief the light turned and he went on his way. The man on the corner continued this for a time longer. Every once in awhile he would open his KJV to read from its pages, other times he would point an accusing finger at some passerby who mistakingly made eye-contact with him.
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There was a sad irony watching this man preach in a “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” type of way on this particular day (if you don’t get that reference, please don’t worry about it). This man was completely clueless. Not because of what he was screaming over the crowds of people passing by (though there was plenty to pick apart), but rather the irony could be found in who he was unknowingly “preaching” to: Christians.
How do I know this? Because it was the reason I was there. This man was heedlessly howling to thousands of young Christians who traveled hundreds of miles to worship and glorify the same God he was shouting to them about. Watching this happen was baffling, humiliating, and convicting all at once.
The sad thing is that we do this, too. You are most likely not standing on a street corner convicting/damning people on God’s behalf, but many Christians take on the same posture as this man.
We speak before we listen; we sell before we love; we judge before we learn.
This man most likely had no idea that thousands of Christians were walking all around him in that moment. It didn’t matter to him. Rather, what mattered is that be bulldozed his way into the ears and minds of of those walking around him (if they wanted it or not). He was absolutely convinced he knew the hearts and minds of those around him, and he was going to “guide” them to the truth! Perhaps there is a place for this flavor of outreach, but I have found that there is a much more sustainable and accepted method for sharing Jesus with others.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is in Philippians 2:5-8:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Who, being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant , being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross.
Jesus had the most important message to share with the world, but I am always captured by the posture he takes. Jesus humbled himself from being beside God, to breathing our air, using our words, and walking in our shoes. He literally walked with us because he loved us and he wanted to be with us. That’s a God I can follow.
We work the same way. The posture we take with people highly influences our relationship with them. Most well intentioned Christians (like this man shouting from a street corner), find themselves trying to sell something rather than trying to love someone. A non-Christian once told me I don’t hang around Christians very much because they always have something to sell.
We don’t love people to convert them; we love people because we are converted.
Do you spend more energy trying to share or trying to listen? If we would simply ask someone to tell us their story or their spiritual journey, they are likely to tell us. If we are a safe friend, they are most likely to ask us about our story. This is not manipulation; it is simply how normal conversations happen in real relationships. We should be interested in other people and what we can learn from them.
People are not projects; people are people. They laugh, they cry, they doubt, and they put their faith in things just like we do. So, stop yelling and start listening. What you might find is that you have much more in common than you originally thought.