“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. This is why the world hates you.” Jesus, John 15:18-19 (NIV)
Larry Dubois, my co-laborer in the gospel, is just beginning to lift up his voice on the campus of UC Berkeley and unashamedly proclaim the excellencies of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Within minutes, a woman approaches Larry, angst etched in her face. She interrupts him and says that her elderly grandfather and her are unable to have a conversation because Larry’s voice is too loud and she can’t hear her grandfather’s soft voice.
This is where I step in. People often interrupt street-preachers for a myriad of reasons; the majority of them are because people become riled up when someone is speaking about Jesus, sin, judgment and one’s need for salvation.
Larry is an excellent preacher; very Jesus based and biblical. He has memorized more Scripture than I have and quotes freely from the Bible in his open-air sermonette’s. We are in the midst of a class break where we have an opportunity of reaching thousands of students in a matter of minutes, but only if Larry stays focused and does not have to deal with distractions…like this woman.
I approach her, deflecting her attention from Larry. She asks me if I am with “that guy.”
“Can you do me a favor? I’m sitting with my elderly grandfather trying to have a conversation with him. He is old and can’t talk loud and we’re having a hard time hearing his soft voice over your friend’s preaching. Would it be all right if you stopped for about ten minutes so we can finish our conversation? I’m not against what you are doing, but I just can’t hear my grandfather. Can you give us ten minutes?”
She is presenting me with a true conundrum. I don’t want to be a jerk and tell her to go take a hike; after all, I’m a Christian preacher and how would an attitude like that go over? It certainly would not give glory to God and would also reinforce the stereo-type of open-air preachers being loud-mouthed idiots.
Certainly I don’t want our preaching to ruin her conversation with her frail and soft-spoken grandfather. Her request seems reasonable, but something doesn’t seem right.
“Let me stand by where you are sitting so I can hear for myself if Larry is too loud.” We walk the twenty to thirty feet over to the wooden bench where her grandfather and two other men are chatting. I stand a few feet from her grandfather and can hear him perfectly. His voice is not as soft as she described it; I was expecting him to barely squeak out a whisper.
“I can hear him just fine,” I say to her.
To be fair, I wait until Larry turns in our direction. At this point, Larry is loud, but they can still carry on a conversation. When Larry is not facing them straight on, there’s no problem. The woman is lying. I don’t like that.
I repeat that I can hear her grandfather just fine and can’t understand her issue. She becomes angry and asks, “So you’re not going to ask him to stop, even for ten minutes?”
“No, I’m not.”
Our conversation is finished and I walk back to where Larry is preaching and stand near him, holding one of our gospel signs. Within minutes, the four of them leave, passing right by us. As they do, the feeble, soft-spoken grandfather that speaks so softy his concerned granddaughter could not hear him shouts out, clear as a bell and almost as loud as experienced street-preacher Larry with his trained voice, “Jesus su*ks!”
I’m dumbfounded. Now the issue becomes clear: the granddaughter knew of her grandfather’s hatred of Jesus and Larry’s preaching on Him was what was ruining their conversation. The lie about him being soft-spoken was a ruse to get us to stop Larry boldly lifting up His Name.
“That’s a wicked thing to say and you should be ashamed of yourself!” I call out after the old man. As they walk away, one of the other men, the grandson or even the husband of the granddaughter, lifts high his right hand and gives me the middle finger.
These are the four people sitting on the bench left of Larry.