In gearing up for The Marin Foundation’s two events at the Gay Pride Parade, Kevin Harris, Director of Community Relations for The Marin Foundation, wrote the following 2 Part Series to ask God to help us Bless the Street Preachers:
“To be honest from the start, there are few things that cause my do not judge button to get jammed like a fire and brimstone street preacher. I am a pretty laid back person; alright a very laid back person, but they have managed on a number of occasions to make my blood boil and arouse anger in myself that I am not that accustomed to. And I’m not talking about the righteous anger that preachers love to talk about on a Sunday morning, but more the “I want to kick you in the face” type anger.
Now I have talked to street preachers in person and online along with reading up on their theology and motivations as to their reasoning for presenting their message the way that they do. I have come to believe that most of them are not the hateful bigots that they are so often written off as and they genuinely believe that telling others that they are wicked sinners destined for hell is going to bring them to have a relationship with Christ. But despite my perception of their good intentions, the fact does not change that I think they make it harder for others to discover the unconditional love of Christ and would often like to see God go Old Testament on them with some good ole wrath. But instead I am often reminded that Jesus, like that annoying school teacher that assigned homework on Fridays and actually expected you to do it, drew parallels between anger in our heart towards our brother/sister and murder (Matt. 5:21-22) and he even went further in the same chapter to say that we must also love our enemies and pray for them. Seriously Jesus, come on now.
Even though this theory of enemy love does not seem plausible when the requirement manifests itself in my life, I’m slowing starting to see some connections between it and prayer. And I’m not sure that the Biblical mandate to do it just because Jesus says to, although important, is the only reason it is required of us. I am still working on my anger when it comes to street preachers, but a while back I felt like I was hurt by a friend and we had somewhat of a falling out. I did not want to let go of my anger but was reminded of some of the verses I listed above along with the scripture that tells us to not sin in our anger and give the devil a foothold by letting the sun go down on our anger (Eph. 4:26-27). I was angry and couldn’t bring myself to pray for the friend, so I just started by asking God to give me the desire to want to pray for them. I slowly got to the point where I could pray for them, although my heart really wasn’t in it, and over time I actually started to mean some of the words that I was saying. Reconciliation had yet to come about between us, yet somehow in the process of praying my heart was being molded and I was starting to care more about them.
I am beginning to see that in connecting with God and admitting our dependence upon God in the face of anger that seems insurmountable, it is there that God starts to conform us more fully into the image of Christ as we are pushed through the painful process of sanctification. In praying for someone, we cannot help but to acknowledge and dignify their humanity. When we invest time in someone in this way our lives become intertwined if only in a mental and spiritual sense, and we start to care about them and recognize their worth as a person made in the image of God. From the point of acknowledging the intrinsic worth inherent in even those we are really angry with and persisting in prayer, it seems that we give room for God to work in our lives and shape our hearts. This does not seem very enticing living in a culture that encourages and even celebrates instant gratification at times. So unlike just going to the supermarket and picking up some vegetables, I am slowly starting to find that the process of working through anger and loving another person more accurately resembles a garden where the food is cultivated over a significant period of time.
I am by no means there yet with street preachers, but hopefully if I run into some of them at the pride parade this weekend in Chicago I won’t want to kick them in the face, just the shins.
What about you? What are the thoughts that come to mind when the topic of praying for someone that angers you comes up?”