Kind is Cool…er than Bullhorns
October 8, 2016
Pulling into church last week, we heard a man’s voice carrying through the parking lot.
As we looked to where the sound was coming from, we saw a dad with his wife and daughter, megaphone in one hand, doomsday poster in the other.
“JUDGMENT DAY IS COMING. YOU’RE GOING TO LEAVE HERE AND GO DRINK YOUR BEER AND GORGE YOURSELVES ON SPORTS, BUT GOD IS GOING TO SEPARATE THE SHEEP FROM THE GOATS. THIS CHURCH BUILDING STEALS MONEY FROM THE WIDOWS AND ORPHANS.”
et cetera, et cetera.
Turns out our church isn’t special – we’re just one of several megachurches that is targeted by this group. It was our week for the…uh…Judgement Day public service announcement.
We got our boys inside and to their children’s worship. About 5 minutes into our own class, I leaned over to my sweet, non-confrontational husband and said, “I think I have to go out there and talk to those people.” To which he replied, “Please don’t.”
I laughed….on my way out the door.
I grabbed a few water bottles from the kitchen and headed outside.
Thankfully, there was a lull in church traffic, so the protestors were sitting down on the grass taking a break.
I squatted down next to them and asked, “So are you are guys from around here?”
The next several minutes were spent talking about living in Texas and being a parent. We didn’t venture much into what they were actually protesting; honestly, I didn’t care to hear. Rarely do productive conversations happen at the speaker end of a bullhorn.
One thing I did say was that our church – while not perfect – is made up of a whole lot of messed up people trying their best to follow a perfect Jesus. “It really is a pretty amazing place, full of lots of grace.”
“Well some of those ‘nice people’ have been very vindictive to us this morning.” the dad replied.
I resisted the urge to point out it was probably a direct response to his yelling unwarranted insults in their face. Instead I said, “Man, I’m sorry to hear that. You know, sometimes when we are met with aggression, we respond accordingly. But even if we disagree with each other, we can still do so in love. I hope you’ve seen more of that today than the other.”
We exchanged a few more pleasantries and ended our conversation shortly after.
As I was walking away I said, “Oh, by the way, I originally came out here to offer you guys water. It’s pretty hot today.”
The dad pointed to a pile of discarded water bottles on the ground and said, “Honestly, you’re about the 8th person to bring food or drinks out here. So.. thanks, but no thanks.”
I’ve never been prouder of our church as I was when I saw that pile of h2o.
When I got closer to the building, a few of our church security officers stopped me and asked if the family had been nice.
I told them yes, surprisingly.
“Oh, good,” they said. “You were the only person who wasn’t yelled away by a megaphone.”
It surprised me a little. Not that they yelled people away, but that I wasn’t one of those people.
Honestly, I think it helped that the family was sitting down relaxed when I approached. It probably also helped that they thought I was 16 years old.
Whatever it was (hello, divine intervention), I was so thankful for it.
Because as we drove up that morning and began unloading our kids, I watched as that teenage girl set up a video camera to record her dad yelling hateful, misguided statements at good, Jesus-loving people.
And as I watched her, I found myself hoping someone was responding graciously.
I hoped someone was responding differently.
I hoped someone was responding with kindness.
And then I felt God elbow me and whisper, “that someone could easily be you.”
Hope is great…but sometimes it needs flesh.
Because there will come a day when that girl begins to question the hate and the judgment her faith is based on. And when that day comes, I want her to be able to look back at her life and see real, actual faces of kindness in the midst of spitefulness. To see real, actual grace offered when it wasn’t deserved.
And you know what’s awesome? Whether she realized it or not…whether she’s even looking yet or not, she saw it on Sunday.
She saw 8 hands holding cold water bottles. 8 faces of grace. 8 examples of a better Jesus.
I think we buy into this idea that we have to have an opposing view. We always have to take a stand. And maybe sometimes we do.
But maybe sometimes we also just need to squat down and hand over some cold water. To be a kind face.
God can work with that. I’m praying he does.
In such a divided, polarized culture – from politics to religion to sleep-training methods – we can still choose kindness. Not a bull horn, not ambivalent silence, but kindness.
That’s my vote.