Once, I was part of a little group of great Jesus lovers on the campus of Kent State University. They were what you could call a “para-church”, because they weren’t actually a church, but they studied the Bible together, played Christian songs and sang them together, and listened to people talk (preach) to them. They were doing a thing where they were getting together every day for forty days to pray together in the morning, they were doing it during the season of lent to symbolize a sacrifice in honor of the one Jesus made, a really great thing to do no doubt. Also keep in mind that they weren’t Catholic, but just a group of Jesus followers from all different backgrounds.
They decided, however, to meet in the student center of the campus and put themselves on display. That would have been alright, but they broke out a guitar once or twice, and sang out loud to Jesus with their eyes closed as people walked by. I was coming to these meetings for awhile, but I started to question what they were doing. I began to disagree with the idea of meeting in public to pray and come off as holy rollers to everyone around. After all, Jesus said that we shouldn’t pray on the street corners or in the marketplaces to be noticed by people, but to go in our closet and pray to our Father in heaven in secret. A lot of people say that Jesus was talking about a heart issue there, not just praying in public. I agree, actually, and I still pray before eating at a restaurant, usually when there are other Christ followers there at the table with me. I’ll always ask a person who doesn’t believe in Jesus if it’s alright with them to pray, or sometimes won’t pray at all.
But I felt that this group was taking it too far. For one thing, they were making a spectacle, and for another thing, they were making no effort to communicate with the many college students walking by. I thought, “why don’t they try to make friends with some of the people walking by, and have a spiritual conversation with them?” All that stuff began to stir up in my head. I was thinking that the group should follow what Jesus said and go and pray together in a private room, then spend the rest of their time handing out free donuts to college students and striking up some conversation.
So one day, I showed up at their meeting, like a half hour late, to add insult to injury. I brought a video camera with me. I came up to the group and barked at them, yelling something like this:
Hey guys, I decided not to show up to make a spectacle of myself by praying in public today. Besides, Jesus said we shouldn’t put ourselves on display! Instead, I’m going to take this video camera around and ask people what their experiences with Jesus and their experiences with Christians have been, and try to reach some people instead of alienating them! If anyone wants to join me, they’re more than welcome! (I said something like that- it might have been even more offensive)
One of the guys there responded back, angrily, “So, you’re saying that since you disagree with what the group’s doing, you don’t support them? That’s a bunch of crap, man!” And he stormed off. Everyone else just stared at me. I walked away, arrogantly, with my camera in hand, ready to interview people. A girl who worked with the group as an intern chased after me. She totally laid me out. She said that the guy who had freaked out and stormed off was not a Christian, but actually came from a reformed Jewish background and was just checking the group out and making some good friends. I felt totally horrible. She also said that some of the people there were new in the Christian community, and probably couldn’t handle what I was saying, because they were new at even learning basic bible stuff. I felt even worse. I apologized a lot (even though at the moment of conflict, I thought that I was totally right). I came back to the group and hung out after they were done praying, and apologized to everyone. Everyone just said that I should have just talked to the leaders first before making a scene, and in hindsight I realize that they were right.
The next day, I came back with my camera, and a few of the people from the group came with me. We interviewed some people, including this guy that had been smoking a lot of pot and eating a lot of acid. He told us that he had had a dream that Jesus showed up in, and totally freaked him out and made him want to change his destructive habits, which also included sniffing gasoline occasionally. I told him that I had totally been there (well- not sniffing gasoline, but other illegal drugs). We shared some wild stories, and I told him about my faith in Jesus, and how it had changed everything in my life for the better, as well as my outlook on death and everything. He was really cool to me, and another leader from the group videotaped the whole thing while we were talking.
I’m telling this whole story to make a point, and more to my shame than to my accolade. I wish I would have just been nice to everyone about the whole praying in public thing. They were a really nice group of people who were my friends. But instead of loving them like the Bible says I should have done, I just opened my fat mouth and freaked out at them, which wasn’t right. I should have made sure that people stumbled over Jesus’ words and not mine. That time, I got in the way of the good things Jesus was saying. If I would have loved on them, I would have made a lot more of an impact. Instead, I hurt some people.
But by the way, that reformed Jewish guy who wasn’t into Jesus that stormed off ended up coming back to the group, and I think he eventually became a follower of Jesus. They probably just had to explain to him to “ignore the dude with the big mouth and huge ego that showed up the other day”.
That’s one example of what it means to be a rebel without a cause… And Jesus was not a rebel without a cause, His mission was more than a cause, to bring salvation to anyone who He would elect to believe in and follow Him!