I was warned. Yes, I knew there would be tension created by our evangelistic efforts in Hillcrest. I knew this from the many trials that befell the Apostles in the Book of Acts and from the whispers of the Holy Spirit in prayer. I didn’t know what form it would take, but I knew it was inevitable.
Maybe it’s because we’ve been consistently present in the same location for several weeks or because we’re encountering the night crowd since the time change. Either way, it’s obvious that the tensions are rising in Hillcrest.
This was made evident when we were told by two men that our mere presence in Hillcrest is antagonistic toward the residents and we should therefore leave. They continued to tell us they were more like “Christ” than most christians because they help a homeless veteran in Balboa Park.
I commend them on their service to the poor, which is noble indeed, but that doesn’t mean they’re better than anyone else – christian or otherwise. What it does, is show their point of view, which is only focused on this life. However, the Christian message and mission focuses both on this life and the life to come. The Christian message and mission are incomplete without this dual focus.
And as Mike, my co-laborer in the mission, so wisely commented, “God doesn’t discriminate against who He extends his offer of grace and love so therefore neither will we.”
They might think we’re in Hillcrest to antagonize them, but we know we’re there to extend the greatest gift known to man – God’s grace. We’re there to love them as God loves them.
A little later a man passed by with a particularly sour look on his face. I’ve met this man before and his anger was just as evident then, as it was this day. He was so angry that after he told us to get lost he began yelling profanities at us from the corner.
I walked toward him, making sure to keep my distance, to tell him that we were there in God’s name to extend His love and grace to which he made a profane gesture and continued his profanity laced tirade. Not wanting to fan the flames of his anger I calmly told him that God loved him and then I turned around. That ended it.
This morning in worship as we sang of the depth and beauty of God’s grace I was flooded with compassion for this man because of how desperately he needs to encounter this grace.
I have no ill will toward him and I pray the Holy Spirit will show him how differently I treated him, compared to how he treated me. I also pray that my last words to him will echo in his mind and heart that he might experience this grace and become a new creation in Christ. Then his once vulgar lips will sing sweet praises to God.