Yesterday, I had a brief exchange with a man who refused to hear the Gospel message. He told me, as he walked away, he would never serve Jesus, after what Jesus had done to him. As a parting shot, I called out, "but did He do it to you?"
Eventually, he came back through the area where I was standing, and he, oddly enough, encouraged me to continue in what I was doing, saying that not many people would be willing to take the abuse people threw at them. I pointed out that Jesus went to the cross for me, so it isn't really that big a deal to have someone swear at me. Then he volunteered the real reason for his hesitance to hear the Gospel. He'd been hurt before. Hurt by someone acting in the Name of Christ. Once bitten, twice shy.
Searching for something to say, I asked if he was sure I couldn't convince him to take a tract and read it later; I tried to tell him that it was never too late to pick up the Bible he hadn't read since he was a child.
And now, I wish I had said something else. Something like:
"Would you like to grab a coffee and talk about it?"
And maybe from there, another conversation could be had, my side of which I can only hope he stumbles across on this insignificant little blog, as there is a chance I'll not see him again to say it face to face.
So, sir, if you're reading this, here is what I would say:
"You are a sinner. And you are in desperate need of Jesus.
"But so am I. And so is that other guy handing out tracts over there. And so are the people who hurt you enough to make you spurn the Saviour. In fact, even the Pope himself needs Jesus, but that's a topic for another time.
"I get it. I really do. You've been abused in some way, hurt, cheated, taken advantage of, by someone who you should have been able to trust. Someone who bore the banner of Christianity. Someone who, like you and I both, needs Jesus. And I get the connection. I get that there is a fear of it all happening all over again. If one Christian could hurt you so much, what is stopping another Christian from doing the same? And all I can say to that is, Grace.
"It is only the Grace of God which is the difference between the saved and the sinner. It is only by God's grace that some do not become so abusive as others. And even then, we sinners stumble. And God's Grace picks us up again. So I cannot guarantee you'll not be hurt again. I cannot promise that a saved sinner, will not sin again.
"But I can tell you that where we sinners fail and fall, Christ stands, perfect. Put your faith in sinners, and you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Put your faith in Jesus Christ, and He will never let you down.
"And now, would you like a refill?"