The young man stopped while I was distributing the gospel literature we call broadsides. He said that he too was a believer in Yeshua. While I am always grateful when a brother or sister in the Lord stops to exchange a word of greeting, I could tell from his look that this man was not about to offer words of encouragement like, Keep up the good work!”
“I’m all for telling people about Jesus,” he began, “but…” He turned my broadside over and then back again. “Don’t you think this is a waste?”
“A waste of what?” I asked.
“A waste of time. A waste of paper.”
I shrugged politely, not wanting to engage in a protracted discussion. “No,” I said, “I don’t think it’s a waste.”
“I mean, most of these end up on the sidewalk, or on the street or in the trash,” he said.
I shot a quick look around, and there were not that many discarded tracts on the ground.
“We make it a point to pick up any of our tracts that get tossed away,” I said. I thought that might end the discussion, but he seemed adamant about pressing the issue.
“I mean, I wouldn’t like it if somebody shoved a piece of paper in my face.”
I suppose at this my bewilderment registered on my face.
“Did I shove that piece of paper into your face?” I asked. “I thought I merely extended it toward you as you walked across my path.”
“Well you did, but…”
“Tell me something,” I cut in quietly. “Have you ever handed out tracts?” When he admitted he had not, I asked him another question.
“If you did, what do you suppose the hardest part of it would be?”
“Well, I wouldn’t hand out tracts because I think it’s a waste of time, and I think you just make people upset,” he countered.
“Okay, but just suppose you did,” I said. “What would be the hardest part?”
He paused as though he might answer, then decided to hedge again. “All you do is make people mad,” he said.
“I think Jesus might have made some people mad when he healed on the Sabbath or when he raised Lazarus from the dead,” I said. “It was not that anything in his manner would have made them mad. Those who got mad were not upset with his manner but with his message. Unbelievers who don’t want to know the truth will always get upset over the gospel, whether you hand them a tract or talk to them in their homes.”
He was not about to budge, and neither was I. I smiled, wished him a nice afternoon and continued to hand out my tracts.
I must admit that he was right about people getting angry. Some do—not everyone, but at least a few. I know this because I remember how offended I was the first time I received a piece of gospel literature (Shoved in my face? Not really!) from a Jew for Jesus.
It was the summer of 1975 in New York City. I remember thinking, “Someone ought to tell these clowns you cannot be Jewish and believe in Jesus.” But that someone was not going to be me. I kept walking. I also put the tract in my pocket. I kept it for two years. Then, in 1977, I came across another tract (one I happened to pick up after someone else had thrown it away). I searched the Scriptures with an open mind and finally concluded that a person can be Jewish and believe in Jesus. So I did. I committed my life to Yeshua, and about six months later started volunteering with Jews for Jesus—you guessed it—to hand out tracts!
I suppose in my ministry I have made a number of people angry over the gospel during the past several years. Recently I heard about a young woman who had become very angry with me back in 1982, shortly after I had come to work at the Los Angeles branch of Jews for Jesus. To be honest, I don’t remember the incident, but she does.
Her name is Annette. She is a Jewish woman from France who recently came to one of our meetings. Afterward she got together with one of our workers, Lynn Wein. The next day Lynn called to tell me that Annette had given her heart to Yeshua!
“Do you remember meeting her?” Lynn asked.
“No, in Westwood—while broadsiding—in 1982. Annette said you might remember because she gave you such a hard time.”
“And now she believes?” I asked.
“And now she believes.”
“Maybe I ought to pray for more people to take offense,” I said.
Yeshua told a parable about a sower who tossed his seed about rather indiscriminately. Some fell on rocky ground. Some fell on shallow ground. But some fell on good soil and brought in a crop thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold.
I’m glad the sower’s neighbors never told him it was just a waste of time, or to be careful about making some of the other soil angry!