This might happen to you. Maybe not exactly the way it happened to me. But I want to write you to prepare you. Because there are things you were put on this earth to do. And I think you have an enemy who would like it very much if you didnâ€™t succeed in doing them.
Let me set the stage for you. Weâ€™ve sat down at a coffee shop with a friend from ages… and I do mean ages ago. More like an acquaintance who weâ€™ve run into a couple of times in the past few years, and then planned to connect with again. The conversation starts off as normal as any other and then youâ€™re hit with this brick: â€œYeah, I donâ€™t really like America. I donâ€™t really like Americans, either.â€ And you…yeah, you, with the slightly ugh, what? look on your face… you are the American at the table.
You might follow up with, â€œHave you ever been to America?â€ That was my next step. And the reply was â€œNo, but I met these three Americans in London and…â€
Itâ€™s a little tough to swallow. I mean…there are times when it’s hard not to take something personally. Like why does anyone ever start a sentence with, “No offense, but…” Does that give you an excuse to say something offensive, just because you started a sentence with “No offense”? Anyway, a few of you might be surprised to know that this isnâ€™t the first time this has happened to me. Iâ€™ve actually experienced it a lot. (I still love you, Rob!) Like, I mean Iâ€™ve experienced having to leave the room because I am crying because of the comments someone is making, to me, directly, that are hard to “not take personally.”
Now hereâ€™s where I really donâ€™t want to lose you. This is the important part. Blinking lights here: Opinions donâ€™t matter. Baseball vs. Cricket, Football vs. Rugby, Beyonceâ€™s sparkling solo career, George W. Bush, your home country, the fact that nobody looks good in paisley… you can talk about these things, and lots of people will have different opinions. They just donâ€™t matter.
I have been drawn in before. Definitely. Drawn into a conversation with a stranger or a friend where we could have had the opportunity to talk about something more important that George W. Bush or American foreign policy, or the British and colonization. I can remember it happening even when I lived in the States and spent a lot of time with international students. Iâ€™ve very often missed the opportunity to talk about the needful things…the important things…the eternal things because I took offense and felt the need to defend a presidential slipup or to explain which country actually started the use of concentration camps in war. Donâ€™t get me wrong. I do think some of these conversations have a place and a time. But I donâ€™t want you to get distracted from the really important conversations that you might only have one opportunity to have.
So as I sat across the coffee table and thought about the follow up to that last sentence, I consciously made the decision that we had more important things to talk about. And when the mention of George W. Bush came up, it was as if the enemy was directly poking me with a stick and trying to incite me to react, to speak up…to fight! But, glory be to God, I held my tongue. Fortunately Mark was able to hold his too — he has been a defender of the States since long before we met! As a result of us not getting drawn in, we had a really, really fruitful conversation, and we had the opportunity to talk about things eternal. What the Bible has to say about certain issues. How it is interpreted in different ways. What it means for us to believe it. Why the free will God has given us is so incredibly beautiful. And why we shouldnâ€™t stop looking for the Truth.
As we walked away from that conversation, we reflected on how different it wouldâ€™ve been if weâ€™d taken the bait and gotten drawn into any of those other conversation options. Iâ€™m pretty sure they wouldâ€™ve turned into arguments and borne bad fruit.Â Thankfully, after four and half years away from my home country, Iâ€™m at a place where you can say what you like about the good olâ€™ US of A… perhaps even my home state… and most of the time, itâ€™s water off a duckâ€™s back. Now my hometown might be a different story… 😉 But if we spend more time thinking about whatâ€™s really important… we might be able to hold our tongue about other things that just donâ€™t matter.
The Sermon in a Nutshell: Itâ€™s not important for people to believe the Gospel according to George W. Bush. It is important for us to make the most of every opportunity to share the hope that we have. Donâ€™t be ignorant of the enemyâ€™s devices and get drawn into the wrong fight!