She was small and sweet standing at the end of the pedestrian bridge, and, in her meekness, almost invisible. She held out at stack of glossy red postcards. In passing, I saw “Jesus Christ” written in white block letters across the top card. I kept walking, as did the other concert-goers. We were a large crowd of country music fans walking in boots and heels to Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium to see Ashley McBryde, Chris Janson, Chris Stapleton, and George Strait. We were seven minutes late.
Three paces past the young girl was a man wearing a wide-brimmed fishing hat and sunglasses. His voice was loud, and in his right hand he held a sign twice his height. On it he had stapled two brown foam posters filled with white words. I never read them. Instead, I was amazed at the headset through which he address a couple who had stopped to listen.
He rattled off something about Truth, and when the couple turned to leave, he yelled after them “oh, that hurts, doesn’t it?” I do not recall the response of the couple, but the Holy Roller indeed elicited a reaction. A few more zingers were exchanged, and then this out-of-the-blue statement came through the speakers, perhaps evoked by the part of the conversation I’d missed.
Holy Roller: I don’t sit my kids down in front of the Disney Channel.
“Oh, honey, I guess our kids are going to Hell,” said the couple behind us, laughing.
The entire experience was far more uncomfortable than the group of ticket scalpers waiting for us at the next bridge.
I was angry. I was embarrassed. I wanted to apologize to the couple who’s kids watch the Disney Channel. I wanted to run up to the couple who’d been accosted by the Holy Roller and say, “hey, I follow Christ, and that man back there is hateful. I am sorry he accosted you like that.”
How could any follower of Christ behave in such a way? How could any friend of my Friend hatefully judge a stranger, and so publicly? Was he expecting to turn a line of concert goers into the biggest bridge revival in Atlanta? Or to win a least a one heart for Christ with his carefully crafted verbal assaults?
I’ve seen street preachers, but never anyone so abusive.
As we walked on toward the small gathering of ticket scalpers, my frenzied thoughts settled on social media. I felt convicted. How many times have I publicly judged in the name of Christ? How many times have I witnessed other brothers and sisters of mine publicly judging in the name of Christ? Do we really think hateful speech will spark revival or win any hearts for Christ? Do we really think it’s up to us anyway?
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Corinthians 1:4-5).
Paul knew what to say and how to say it and he yielded to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Many do, and that alone is wisdom and persuasion enough. That Holy Roller in Atlanta certainly believed his knowledge of Truth and persuasive delivery of said Truth would awaken new faith in passerby. I only witnessed people walking away or laughing.
Let us not forget, whether out in public or publicly online, that “they will know we are Christians by our love,” and that no one can persuade the unbeliever like the Holy Spirit himself. Let us remember to watch what we say, how we say it, and yield to the direction of the Holy Spirit lest we contradict a marvelous message of love.
Anything else only confuses those already lost. It adds fuel to the fire. And truly, shouldn’t a message of love be shared lovingly?