“Savior of the world?! Not!” That was just one of the ranting one-liners the woman made that Saturday. She and her other comrades had slowly been gathering over the past few moments in the coffee shop, talking about different things. But conversation on the latest hankerings of a church’s protest of the Christmas parade was the abiding topic. It was plain to tell by all that was being said that members of this crew were no friends of my Lord Jesus. I was not angry with them. They were lost. They knew no better.
I had been sitting in the coffee shop before they had arrived, and I had been doing the same thing the whole time: I had been reading the Bible and commentary studying the book of Acts for Sunday School. As they were talking, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Do they not see me sitting here?” At one point, a man meandering in and out of the gathering turned around and saw me. We looked at each other, I smiled politely but did not say anything. I greatly wanted someone to ask my opinion of the local church’s protest. They might’ve been surprised at my answer. But no one asked me, and I never chimed in.
A friend recently reminded me that coffee facilitates conversation. It is a time where we talk to each other in between our sips of frothy lattes and dark roast drips. Therefore, coffee shops are gathering places for dialogue; which is probably one of the reasons we pick these spots as meeting places among friends and family. But the problem is that we don’t want real conversation outside of our circle. At least not enough to venture to the next table and ask someone why they believe the way they do, or to weigh in on an issue they are discussing.
These discussions don’t happen often, especially without initiation. This may be due to our culture of isolation, the idea that we aren’t allowed to disagree with someone’s beliefs, or because we are afraid that our beliefs can’t hold up to the scrutiny. Regardless of what the reasons are someone needs to bring out the discussion, especially the followers of Jesus. Without any words no one will seek to understand the other, and without words no Good News will be shared. Both the evangelist and the Greek don’t want to talk to the other nowadays. We’ll talk about the other side but rarely ever talk with the other side.
In Acts, Paul was always speaking, always sharing, with people who believed differently than he did. One well-known example is when Paul speaks to the Greeks at the Athenian marketplace and the Areopagus. Some scholars argue whether his discourse was that successful, but the point is that he intelligently spoke and discussed with them, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, saw some people come to see the truth of the gospel.
As believers in that gospel, what are we afraid of? We possess the words of life and have a foundation upon which we can stand firm. We mustn’t be afraid. We cannot expect to know everything about world religions or apologetics before we initiate the conversation. If in the path of our discourse with an adherent to another religion, we get a question that stops us in our tracks, we can always locate the answer and follow up later.
Jesus said that we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16). But we can’t shine that light if we stay inside our homes, or the corner of the coffee shop, and never open our mouths to strangers. We are supposed to shine and that means going out of our way and saying something.
Back to the beginning of the article, unfortunately I never stepped over to that conversant group and joined in. But later that day a couple, never a part of the group, asked me what I was reading. I then got to briefly tell them about what was happening during those early days of the church in the book of Acts.