Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Pound of Ire; An Ounce of Grace

It was a story that captured my attention immediately. There was an element of surprise I knew would come at some point, but the story itself was thought-provoking from the onset. It made me think in it's telling; and it made me think long after. It still has that affect.

Where I heard it, I don't recall. Perhaps it was the 700 Club, or even from the pulpit of a church I attended many long years ago, sometime in the mid-80s. That's why the finer details have vanished, but not the story itself. I hope to do it justice as I attempt to share it.


There was a certain neighborhood in a certain community that played reluctant host to an XXX Theater - you know, the kind we associate with utterly poor taste at least, sleaze & deviance at worst; the kind that brings disgust by way of signage alone, not to mention the fare it offers.

Well, apparently there was a certain church in this same certain neighborhood, and many of its fold decided it was time to take matters into their own hands (can anybody say lynch mob?).

They began storming City Hall with petitions, writing their Congressmen, and taking turns as they paced back-and-forth in front of the referenced theater in protest; many of them carrying signs that left little guess-work to their quest:
  • You're not welcome here!
  • Hell is filled with your like!
  • This theater is polluting our children's minds!
  • God will judge you!
Day-after-day, the justice-seekers challenged the owner and patrons alike, making certain their God-ordained mission was carried out until that day when the theater's owner would be intimidated or shamed into closing it down and moving on. Nothing short of running the man and his theater out of the neighborhood would satisfy them.

In the wings was one solitary church-member that felt terrible about the methods being employed to oust the man and his unwanted pornography. He didn't like the theater either, but something in the process left him embarrassed, if not downright ashamed. For the life of him he couldn't get a handle on where love - that key ingredient in affecting change - was being factored in. .

Convicted and convinced that there must be a better way, he decided to call the theater owner; and was taken by complete surprise when the man agreed not only to speak with him, but meet with him.

So, on a certain day the solitary churchman went to meet the porn purveyor.

There were a few awkward pleasantries at first, but before long the churchman decided it was time to speak his piece. He said:

Listen: I, too, attend the certain church that's picketing and protesting your theater. I love those people, but I think they're wrong. I want to apologize to you for what must seem an awful lot like hate-mongering. They mean well, but I fear they may be misguided. So today I just want to leave you with my card, and let you know if ever you need a friend ... someone to talk to ... count me in.

With little more to say, the churchman and the theater owner parted company.

Some weeks or months hence, the churchman's phone rings. It's the theater owner. He asks if the churchman would mind coming to a certain hospital to sit with him. It seems the theater owner's young son lay ill, close to death (though from what illness or injury I do not now recall).

Without hesitation, the churchman made haste in response, praying for wisdom and compassion as he made his way.

For several long hours they sat together in silence. At last the theater owner asked:
Is there a God?

The churchman knew exactly where this man's heart was at that moment: confused, scared, hurting, vulnerable ... the sort of ground that's fertile for God's grace.

From that one question came a rather lengthy, but humble discussion about God's love and provision. Before it had ended, the theater owner decided he needed, and wanted to receive Jesus as his Savior. Sitting there together, close enough to join hands, they prayed softly before returning to the silence of the long wait.

In time the child recovered, but long before being released from the hospital, the child's father - the theater owner - had begun the process of closing down his business. The churchman had said nothing about this; it wasn't part of the salvation offer. Yet somehow the theater owner was compelled to channel his livelihood into another, more God-honoring direction.

There's a moral - many morals - to this story. I'll leave you to pick the one(s) that stir you. Suffice it to say I am again-and-again blown away by the gentle grace God applies to those who, in my mind, often don't deserve it.

He alone
can and does move in hearts in such mysterious ways - often without our ever speaking a word - and, quite possibly, without picket signs.

22 comments:

Shirl said...

You've hit on something that has been disturbing me a long time about the church. When I see this sort of hate-mongering, and I've been guilty of it myself, I cringe...and I understand why a lost and dying world has stopped listening. How far we could carry God's kingdom if only we carried it in a torch of love, as this man did. He chose the better way. He chose how Christ would have done it.

This one is great, Dear!!!

Debbie said...

Thank you for sharing this story. I so agree with this young man who sought out the owner and spoke with him. I dislike some of the hateful tactics many well meaning Christians use. I am more of a peaceful person who would rather talk things out than rant and rave. I think many non Christians look at us and think we're all like that; hateful and then want nothing to do with Jesus.

I appreciate your posting this one, Kathleen.

Love you,
Debbie

RCUBEs said...

It's hard when we show actions that do not glorify Jesus at all. And we call ourselves Christians! Many talk about having God on their side! But the question is: Are we on God's side?

Thought provoking. And a great reminder, our actions must have love. That is His commandment after all. To love Him first and love others. Pride always gets in the way. Proud that we are saved and how quickly we forget that we are His ambassadors that need to reach out to those who are still lost. Like we were once. Thank you for this awesome lesson. Blessings.

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Wow! What a great story and so full of messages that we all, especially Christians should hear!

Love is gentle, kind and caring. It is the ministering to the needs of others with a quiet voice.

I'm reminded that, when others annoy me or see something that is in need of change, to reach out, listen, comfort and share the Lord with that person.

manthano said...

I appreciate this post - well, all of them.
It makes me think of our day and time.
Our nation is going insane. And the
internet is filled with letters, petitions,
posts and what not trying to change it.

But the answer is on our knees.

Technonana said...

Hi Sassy... I have not heard this story.. but I have heard similar stories...and not in the too distant past. But this one reminded me of the Jailer who was in charge of Paul and Silas.
Most often, we mistakenly believe that people cannot change... but kind words and earnest,sincere prayers are often, change agents.
I am most thankful for Our Lord's Amazing Grace.
May we all be the kind of Christians that ask..."Father, what would YOU have me do?"
For changing just one heart can and often does effect the world, even if it's just OUR WORLD.
Thanks for the reminder!!

Rose said...

That is a powerful testament what love and compassion can accomplish. Those who were shouting hate reminded me of those who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was the only one who showed love and compassion. Thanks for sharing this story.
Blessings and hugs,
Rose

Tammy@If Meadows Speak... said...

Lacking is love, not always toward those outside the church, but also toward ones inside. Silentely picketing our signs, those who are different or searching. For answers, for Him. Or worse still is silent picketing broken from silence with vocal "sign" (words), May we grace all things in His love, not mine. Thanks Kathleen!

~*~KIMBERLY~*~ said...

Kathleen,

That was an amazing story. I love how God's grace moves and stirs us. I love how HE just swoops us up and carries us through. Happy Saturday!

Karen Lange said...

What a great story. I suspect that this is more the approach that Jesus would take (vs. the picket line approach). I think sometimes we rally around the movement and forget the people involved who are the ones we need to reach out to. Thanks for sharing this. Have a good weekend:)

Beth E. said...

I learned this lesson with my brother. (I believe I've shared that story with you.) God does not call us to judge, shame, intimidate, or hate. Tough to do, sometimes, but LOVE conquers all.

Hugs AND love,
Beth

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

I am oh so grateful for that wonderful and gentle hand of God's grace.

This was great Kathleen.

LisaShaw said...

Oh Kathleen, this is SOOOOOOOOOO on point and timely. Goes with a message I wrote on my pro-life blog yesterday based on condemnation.

Condemnation never draws only conviction does and conviction through the Holy Spirit comes with love and correction in Christ.

That man brought LOVE to the theatre owner through Christ and therefore he was able to receive conviction in his heart by the Holy Spirit about the theatre.

I stand for LIFE and am very involved in a more overt way but I avoid the "screamers". I don't believe anyone can be reached through screaming or condemnation. It just doesn't work. Their hearts will close up. Some don't agree with me but I'll continue to reach others the way the LORD leads.

I want to thank you for this message because it's confirmation to me that I'm following the LORD's lead and not the "screamers" so to speak as were the well meaning people in the story you shared. We can have hearts to do right but totally mess up our delivery of the message!!! Make sense?

Grandma used to say the root of self-righteousness was pride and pride always comes before the building or cause comes down!

I love you and I'm glad I was able to visit with you today. I'm going to share your message on my facebook.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Sas:
About a year ago, my husband preached a sermon about a boy in high school who had given my husband a "chance" with the football during a pick-up game of some sort. Billy was the runt of the school, always picked upon because of his small size and lacking athletic ability. Anyway, Billy never forgot that star athlete giving him a chance. Powerful sermon. Anyway, the next week, my husband decided to try and find this guy from his high school days; found his address (he's a bar owner at one of the hottest bars in the Triangle area), and sent him a copy of his message, as a way of saying thanks to him for all those year ago!

Anyway, the man actually contacted my husband, has cancer, and asked my husband and our congregation if we would pray for him. We made him this huge card, all signed it, etc.

Not sure where things stand with his "heart", but it's funny how small "prompts" by the Holy Spirit seed kingdom work.

For what it's worth... just what I thought about while reading this story of grace.

peace~elaine

Terri Tiffany said...

What a wondeful story and such a reminder to us on how we should truly act as Christians. I about cried reading it!

Just a little something from Judy said...

"Wonderful grace of Jesus, Greater than all of my sin. How shall my tongue describe it: Where shall its praise begin? Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free. For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me." ~Haldor Lillenas This is the same grace I want to extend to others...any others. Amazing grace is what I found and did not deserve, and it is that grace that I am thankful for every day of my life. With that in mind, that is how I want to live towards others. This was one of the best posts that you have shared. Thank you.

Faith Imagined said...

Oh this was beautiful! I have tears on my eyes! I think Christians can change the world if we do it out of love not judgment!

Thank you for sharing this wonderful store!

-Alisa Hope

sonja said...

You are on a wonderfull roll! This was so strong Kathleen, and speaks to every one of us - we are His hands and voice, and how we do that is everything. The message can be right on, but the delivery can spoil it or win the battle.

I appreciate these words.

Sonja

Runner Mom said...

Love this story. What a great reminder to us all. I loved Elaine's comment as well. Thanks you for your sweet words on my blog.

Much love,
Susan

Rita said...

What one sees is much more of a testimony of our lives that what one hears! Oh that we should live our lives so that others see what is in our lives. Great post!

Nel said...

What a wonderful story. We can do so much more if we remember to use Christ as an example and do it in love! Thanks for sharing and reminding us what is important!

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!
...nel

Deborah Ann said...

Love seems to find a way, and often it finds entrance without any hoopla. It works in a quiet, unobtrusive way, no loud, clanging noises. Love is silent.