I’m in Toronto for a few days and decided to take the subway downtown. I find myself becoming a bit germophobic lately so a subway ride stretches my limits. I just can’t help thinking about the nasty germs on pretty much everything…. but I digress….
On my way back after a pretty amazing day, I noticed a Muslim woman panhandling at the bottom of the escalator. I had nothing to give with me and so I took a spot in the waiting area. A few minutes later, I heard a loud commotion and glanced over to see two men arguing in front of her. One was trying to ‘save her soul’ and the other was trying to stop him from harassing the woman. I immediately began to pray that the train would come quickly, but alas… the prompting to respond kept increasing in volume.
You must understand that Toronto is filled with ‘interesting people’ for whom a confrontation in a public place is a normal part of their day. Oh… and 78 people have been shot and killed here this year, so engaging with people who are a bit agitated isn’t always a smart move. But the nudge to respond got louder in volume.
As I arrived the man was pointing his finger to heaven declaring that the poor lady had no hope of heaven without Jesus. I ignored him and asked the woman if I could stand beside her. She responded that she didn’t speak English. I smiled and stepped between her and the man.
The conversation went like this:
He: ‘Who are you?’
Me: ‘You’re not helping…’
He: ‘Are you a Christian?
Me: Yes I am.
He: You believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is your personal Saviour?’
Me: I do… I know you THINK you’re helping, but you’re not helping.
He: I’m trying to save her soul!
Me: It’s not working… She doesn’t speak English.
Me: Jesus wouldn’t do it like this.
He: Yes He would! He did it this way with the Samaritan woman.
Me: I think he did it more kindly, gently, more quietly and with a heart full of love.
He: I was doing that…
Me: Mmmm…. maybe not as well as you think you were…
The subway arrived and we got on together. He wants to keep talking… loudly. I want to be on another train…
We chatted back and forth and ever so slowly I could see the dots beginning to connect. In the end, he agreed to read the ‘red parts’ of the gospel to get a fresh glimpse of ‘the Jesus way’ and we parted with a smile.
I’ve been thinking about this ever since it happened. For more times than I care to admit I’ve been guilty of trying to figuratively ‘save someone’s soul’ when I wasn’t speaking their language.
The language of our world has changed both literally and figuratively. From the very little I remember about elementary school French class the first step to learning a new language is to listen carefully and listen often so that you can repeat what you are hearing so that you are understood.
Learning the language of our culture and context is hard work. It takes a determination to find a new/better way, but when we do, the opportunities to love, bring hope and life to people looking for a better way are everywhere!