I’ll be honest, when I try to engage people on the street, what typically happens is that people like to ask us rhetorical questions or questions that are really just statements, or insults under the poor guise of a question, so that they can try to put us in our place. These are usually based upon false prejudgements and assumptions about our character, what Christianity is, and what the Bible says.
Sometimes it feels like people take the worst example of a person who calls themself a Christian, i.e. Westboro Baptist Church member, an internet troll, a scandalized preacher, or a Christian they’ve personally encountered and had a bad experience with, and they place all those attributes on us. They expect us to scream at them, slander them, be self-righteous, be wildly out of our minds, etc –and when we don’t react as the devil they want us to be, they reach for another angle or provocation that they hope will stir us up enough to snap. Thankfully we don’t act that way, but we do offend people by speaking the truth, no matter how gently.
Here is an example of an conversation my husband and I had with a group of twenty-something people, with a ‘Rhetorical-Question-Statement’.
Person 1: “Excuse me? I just have a question for you.”
Me: “Sure, I’ll try my best to answer it.”
Person 1: “As a Christian, what to do you think about homophobia?” (smugly asked)
Me: “I don’t think I understand your question (I do), and that’s kind of a strange thing to talk about, because I don’t think most people are intensely afraid of gay people.”
Person 1: “oh c’mon you know what I’m talking about”
Me: “If your asking me if we hate gay people, then the answer is no.”
My Husband: “But with that said, the Bible does say that homosexuality is a sin, and a man should not lie with a man as he would with a woman.”
crowd: (laughs) “The bible.” (said derisively)
Person 1: “So you hate gay people.”
Me: “no, we don’t. But the primary reason we are out here, is to share the good news of…”
Person 2: (cuts me off as I’m about to share the gospel) “So would you be friends with a gay person. Do you have gay friends?”
My Husband: “My brother is gay.”
Person 2: “And you still think that it’s a sin? What if he got married, would you go to his wedding?”
My Husband: “It’s not that this is just my opinion that I’ve made up. The Bible says that it is a sin or an abomination. And no, I would not go to my brother’s wedding.”
Crowd: (looks offended, then satisfied that they got my husband to say something that coincides with their picture of an intolerant Christian) “Wow”
Person 1: “So you don’t love your brother enough to support him in marrying the one he loves. Can’t you just put your religion aside for him?” (going back to rhetorical)
My Husband and I: “Of course we love him.”
Person 1: “Thats all we needed to know” (they all walk away)
So there you have it. I’m sure that any believer who just read that, especially those who are experienced with evangelism of any kind can speculate as to what we could have done differently, or could appreciate the challenge of speaking to this group.
It is really easy to get sidetracked or dragged into conversations about specific sin, and never get to talking about the penalty of sin, and the grace of salvation. I usually answer these types of questions as briefly as possible, so that I can move on to the gospel. This could be a great error or a wise choice – sometimes it depends on the conversation, and how much time you have with said person.It is important to listen, but also important to make sure that you’re not letting one person take over the conversation. But overall, it is of great importance to speak the truth in love.
Conversations like these usually make me feel defeated in the end. Like I just wasted my time, and was made the fool. But even when I do get the opportunity to share the gospel, in a fuller conversation, often times it ultimately goes back to the other person not being able to let go of a specific sin, or the approval of it in others. Sometimes it feels like beating a dead horse.
But when these brief exchanges do happen, they are only a blip in the larger scene, where we continue to share with other people, through a tract, open-air preaching, etc and the Word of God might just plant into good soil, or be watered.