“God hates homosexuals!” I saw the young man preaching to the crowd at the famous San Francisco cable car turn around at Powell and Market streets. He was a handsome, healthy looking young man with an intensity of conviction that amplified the light in his eyes and the fire in his voice.
I steered my wife through the crowd until I was in the front row. The young man was one of three who had come from who knows where, perhaps a quiet mid-west town or a suburban college campus, to preach to those lost in the City of Sin. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. My wife grew more and more impatient and finally left to look for bargains at Macy’s, her one chance that year of shopping at this Western Mecca of Consumerism. She guessed it was going to be a while before I would be able to tear myself away. It was.
The young man stopped and another took his place. “God hates you sinners and has a fire prepared for you that will never be quenched!” He went on but lacked the special fiery appeal of the first young man. The crowd sensed the waning of charisma too and began chatting with one another as if nothing very different was happening. Attention spans for the eccentric are short-lived in the city. A trolley came and the fascinating ritual of the turning of the car drew all of our attention.
The first young man stepped back up onto the wooden crate and began to proclaim the wrath of God in store for all who were lost in sin. Something about him caught the crowd’s uneasy attention again.
Was it the flashing blue eyes of his youth or his utter sincerity that gave his words some plausibility? Was it the fact that his message contained some harsh but real bits of truth and he was courageous to declare it?
“Tell them yourself!” he retorted, perhaps sensing how my shyness would never allow for that, or perhaps genuinely encouraging me to speak; I couldn't tell. It was the perfect choice to silence me…for a while!
“Tell them how He sent Jesus to show us the way!” I shouted, nodding my head eagerly, hoping to express how I was clearly on his side.
But I was merely a heckler to him. He just couldn’t switch gears. He kept going. It wasn’t just homosexuals who were going to perish but they were the special object of God’s anger and His anger was not going to be held back forever.
I found myself breathing more rapidly. I watched the faces of the spectators, faces that were attracted and repulsed at the same time, but faces that were not moved by the God I knew, the God who had touched and healed my broken and wounded spirit.
“Tell them about God’s love!” I shouted. I couldn’t stand it any longer. “Tell them about the better hope He offers us!” This time his offering to let me speak didn’t have the desired effect. My fear of making a fool of myself wasn’t important compared to God being misrepresented so awfully. I stepped up onto the crate.
“Long before the foundations of the earth were laid,” I began, “God determined to let a part of himself suffer and die so that we might have life and have it more abundantly! God hates sin but He loves the sinner, so much that He took the punishment, the death that sin brings, upon Himself!” The street people heard the word of hope being preached and looked up thankfully. The tourists in line for the cable car turned and watched, curious now. They may not have begun to repent or to believe but they heard the truth and some looked away, guiltily now rather than repulsed.
When I finished I was stunned that the young man still didn’t get it and he began his message of hate all over again. It took me years to understand that the young man may not have yet understood the depths of his own sinfulness and so wasn’t yet appreciative of what God had done for him. Maybe now he stands even taller and walks even more boldly, preaching in the beauty of truth the gospel that can only be appreciated by the lowly of heart.
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