Jesus, Street Evangelism and a Homeless man!
(Photo (c) S.Lee)
I often see people evangelizing on the street, mostly Dutch, but also often people from a migration background. The evangelism campaigns are diverse in form, some through music, some through sermons via megaphone, some milder in nature, and some very judgmental. Without exaggerating, I believe that 80% of what I have heard so far is about being "sinners," "hell" and "afterlife" waiting for people on the streets immediately after death.
On a sunny cold Saturday, I walked through the streets of my hometown. Along the way, I talk to people, and sometimes I make friends. I stopped for a moment and started a conversation with a group handing out leaflets. Three men, a man of African descent and others Dutch. Right in front of them was a homeless man selling newspapers. Out of curiosity, I approached one of the men; he wanted to give me a leaflet, -- in his own Christian wording, I informed him that I was already "saved." He asked me about homeless people or beggars. The man I was talking to seemed nice to me but with a certain idea of social justice that I disagreed with. I listened to him attentively and respectfully, and at the same time, I responded with biblical texts, such as Matthew 25, when Jesus said about feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoners, and welcoming strangers. While we were talking the homeless man was looking at us from afar—and then I pointed to him and said, "And maybe Jesus is looking at us through the eyes of this homeless man while you are evangelizing here?" – the nice leaflet evangelist snapped his head, but he wasn't convinced. Nevertheless, our conversation remained decent until the moment his colleague screamed loudly at him, called his name, and said in English: "Keep working, hand out your leaflets, don't talk too much" and "Otherwise I won't come next time" he said very angry and annoyed.
maybe Jesus is looking at us through the eyes of this homeless man, while you are evangelizing here...
The man I was talking to wanted to explain to his colleague who I was but in vain; that man was angry and wouldn't listen. Then I went to the man and wanted to greet him so he would calm down. Angrily he told me in English that he had no time, not interested in what I wanted to say to him. I told him I am also a Christian, but he continued to be angry in a raised voice telling me, “Leave me alone I have to hand out those leaflets otherwise these sinners who walk past this will go to hell." He said that in a tone and with a facial expression that got so hurt and upset inside of me. My anger inside me wanted to deal with this man, but I remained friendly, blessed him, and said that I disagreed.
As Christians who evangelize in the streets, we must ask ourselves serious questions. The world is not impressed by how big we are, how loud we shout, or how many pamphlets we distribute in the streets. People know well that “the emperor is naked, even when he pretends to be dressed.” Let us be open, honest, and real to the world around us!
I was really hurt inside because of how my Christian brother treated me and how he looked at the pedestrians as sinners. I'm not against street evangelism, I respect people when they do this, but I have problems with how people represent "Jesus" and "the gospel." The paradox was too big to me: from one side there is someone with an angry face telling people that God is love, and 3 meters ahead there is a homeless man who needs help. Meanwhile, the homeless man, perhaps with the eyes of Jesus—continued to look at us, shaking his head with a kind of contempt. I went to him and gave him money, touched his shoulders, and showed love to him; by doing so, I could quench my inner sorrow.