A wise man once said, Opposition brings opportunity.” If that is true, we’re getting a lot of “opportunities” here in Dallas/Fort Worth. It may be an exaggeration to say that every time we go out to hand out gospel literature we get shut down, but that’s the way it feels subjectively. We’ve been hampered downtown, at a junior college, and at a state university all in the same month. I could understand if it happened on private property, or if we were up against some national dictator in a police state. But our civil rights to preach the gospel have been hampered largely by people who claim to be Christians and should be upholding us as brothers and sisters in the Lord.
On one such day of opposition I met Steven and Shan. To me they exemplify classic extremes—the north and south poles, if you will. Steven, a Christian, challenged me about my right to be on campus. He seemed angry. I appreciated his zeal and protectiveness of what went on within the bounds of his campus. But on the other hand, it would not have been very patriotic of me to relinquish the freedoms of speech and religion for which our forefathers fought and died.
Besides, I can objectively document that in this instance, had I followed the advice, instructions and admonitions of that church member and the Christian campus police officer he had called down upon my partner and me, I would have missed a witnessing opportunity. I never would have met Shan, the curious and energetic young Jewish student from Iran.
I imagine that Shan appreciates his newfound freedom. His whole family fled the Ayatollah’s oppression in what can only be described as the book of Esther revisited. I wonder if Shan realizes that he is now in a small state-owned island in the midst of a sea of liberty where his freedoms of speech and religion still would be suspended were he to step over the invisible line of social taboo.
As I talked to Shan on campus that day I felt compelled to dwell on the return of Jesus. Maybe it was because Shan had a hard time entertaining the idea that the Messiah could have come and the world could still be so messed up. He certainly had his share of personal experiences to reinforce the hopeless condition of humanity. He didn’t have to take History 101 to know that we were not enjoying the peace that Messiah is supposed to bring.
We began to talk about the Suffering Servant Messiah that Isaiah described. I admitted that it’s natural for us to cling to the hope and the promise of the Righteous Anointed King who will rule the nations from Zion; but I pointed out that we could not afford to forget his personal gift as “he was cut off out of the land of the living; through the transgressions of my people [in this case Shan’s people] was he stricken” (a translation of Isaiah 53:8: The Hebrew Publishing Company).
Here’s the scary part. Shan wants to get together with me to hear more about Yeshua, but he is in the process of moving. He doesn’t have an address, and the only sure way I can see him is to go to the campus again. I have no assurance that I can do that. The very day that I met Shan, a Student Government official on campus told me that he would have denied us access that particular day because some insensitive Christian was already there railing at the students.
If I am denied access to the campus, should I give in? Should I “make peace with all men” and try to mesh smoothly with their extrabiblical impositions and expectations of me? If I don’t do things their way, is our fellowship broken? If our relationship is contingent upon my performance, is it really a relationship at all? Where does that leave me and my efforts at evangelism working in this “Bible Belt” area across our country?
More important, where does all this leave Shan? I shudder at a scenario in which I “make nice” on all the born-again but evangelistically timid people in hopes that eventually they will get around to a little friendship story with Shan. What if they don’t get around to it?
I don’t think Shan would care much for a subtle witness, considering his culture and hardships. He probably wants a firm hope from a strong Lord who is in control. I know that God is sovereign and he can bring Shan and me together again one way or the other. But in the meantime it would be encouraging to have more support from God’s people in our evangelistic efforts. After all, we are supposed to be on the same side!
Editor’s note: Please pray for Alan and his helpers as they break new ground for Jews for Jesus in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. And if you live in that area, won’t you please do your part through prayer, an affirming letter, or phone call or some other way? The address is Jews for Jesus, P.O. Box 802086, Dallas, TX 75380-2086, Tel: (214) 783-2400.