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Let Love Lead the Way

“Jesus didn’t bludgeon people into the Kingdom. He loved them in.”

Beach bullhorn, Thinkstock.
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Recently while teaching at the Florida Chris­­­­­­­tian Writers Conference, I was privileged to hear a keynote speech by Hollywood producer Brian Bird, a 30-year veteran of the business. I took so many notes that my hand actually hurt by the end of his inspiring message. But one thing he said really made an impact on me.

He leaned forward and looked across the room of seasoned storytellers and newcomers to the publishing industry and said, “We need to be in the business of loving people…Jesus didn’t bludgeon people into the Kingdom. He loved them in.”

That’s so true, and I was grateful for the reminder.

Immediately, my mind drifted back to a spring break encounter I’d had with some “Christians” who apparently hadn’t received that memo.

I had taken my then teenage daughters, Abby and Allyson, and their two good friends, Averi and Jill, to Daytona Beach in 2011.

On the very first day at our beachfront condo, we grabbed our sunscreen, magazines, towels, beach chairs, sunglasses and water bottles and headed for the sandy white beach.

As we strolled down the boardwalk in search of the perfect spot to stake our claim, I noticed a group of men and women who were obviously not dressed for the beach. The men wore long pants and long-sleeved shirts and ties, and the women wore long dark skirts and long-sleeved white blouses. I wondered what they were doing there.

I didn’t have to wonder long…

“Repent, you prostitutes, dressed in your bikini bathing suits!” one of the men yelled through a bullhorn.

I glanced down at my bathing suit and my girls’ bathing suits, and I immediately went into the oh-no-he-didn’t mode.

“Turn from your wicked ways, you heathens,” he continued his rant. “Or you will burn in hell!”

By this time, a large bikini-clad group had gathered around the man with the bullhorn. He quoted scripture after scripture intermingled with messages such as: “You will burn in a fiery pit of hell, you evildoers.”

Abby, who was a senior in high school at the time, looked at the mean man in disbelief and said, “I’m saying something if you don’t! He is making Christians look so bad, Mom. What is he thinking?”

Ab has always been a bit of spitfire, but she was right. He WAS making Christians look bad, and he wasn’t accomplishing anything for the Kingdom of God.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Sir, can I speak with you a moment?”

He completely ignored me.

“Listen,” I said, “I am also a Christian. And though I admire your tenacity for reaching the lost, I’m thinking there might be a better way to accomplish that.”

Still, he ignored me and continued calling girls who passed us “prostitutes” and “Jezebels.”

“Sir, I know the scriptures, too. In fact, I am a Christian author and speaker, so I understand your passion, but your method is a little off. We are called to love people. Ever sing the little chorus: ‘They will know we are Christians by our love’?”

One of the women handed me a tract, as the man with the bullhorn turned his back on me. He didn’t want to hear what I had to say, and the feeling was mutual. As Abby and I walked back to join our little spring break group, he pointed the bullhorn right at us and shouted, “Prostitutes!”

I grabbed Abby’s hand, afraid she might go back and tell him what he could do with his bullhorn, and we moved to the far end of the beach so we wouldn’t have to hear the ugliness anymore.

The whole encounter left me so sad inside.

Even as I share it with you, I feel sad all over again. That group of men and women were committed to their cause, working all day in the hot sun every day we were there, yet what did they accomplish?

They simply alienated everyone within the sound of their bullhorns. No one cared what they had to say. No one wanted to read their tracts. They were not a good or accurate representation of our Lord.

You know, someone once said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. See, it didn’t matter that these folks had probably memorized most of the New Testament, because no one listened. We all tuned them out.

So, unless we want people to tune us out, we have to love them into the Kingdom. We have to be a reflection of Jesus and His love, and God will take care of the rest.

Pray this with me: Father, help me to love the way that You love, and help me to lead others to You. In the Mighty Name of Your Son, Jesus, Amen.

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