Monday, August 29, 2011

Truth Or Coexistence

We had been on the sidewalk in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion mill for quite awhile before the security guard arrived. Several abortionist staff had showed up already as had a few clients. Alongside me on the sidewalk were Catholic pro-lifers as well as several evangelicals who are part of the Vital Signs team: Keith, Carol, Bev, Quint, Val, Chet and Claire. We had been praying and, when possible at this difficult facility, talking to the clients across the parking lot.

When the guard pulled in, he swung his truck over to us and rolled down his window. Trying to strike a commanding pose, as security guards are so prone to do, he said in his best Jack Webb voice, "Good morning, Mr. Hartford." (I was "Denny" last week.) "It seems like things are going fine here and they will as long as you and the others keep to the sidewalks."

I smiled and made sure we had strong eye contact before replying, "No kidding? Is that how it works? You know, after 30 years of doing this, I thought that was the procedure but it's awfully nice of you to come over and remind us. Thanks."

"Well, I just wanted things to be clear. You all have your opinions and they have theirs and...well, it is what it is. We just have to coexist."

"Oh, coexistence is fine as far as it goes," I said. "But the most important things in life -- issues of morality, where we stand with God, what happens to us when we die -- those things matter. And you and I have to take these things up with the God Who created us. The Bible warns us that it is appointed to every man to die and then to face God's judgment. So, you know, it's not coexistence with one another that is the priority, man; it's getting right with God."

I spoke calmly and had bent down a bit so as to have a more direct conversation. I kept holding my sign with its beautiful baby picture as well as my pink banner which reads, "Mom, We Care for You and Your Baby." I was being as friendly as I could be, trying to build on the brief conversation we had had a week ago. Also, I was confident that my friends were lifting up this conversation in prayer.

He answered. "I hear you, Mr. Hartford. And I want you to know that I appreciate your civility. It's a whole lot nicer than being screamed at for being a baby-killer or being told that I'm going to hell."

I laughed. "Well, don't mistake my civility for confidence that you're not going to hell. Man alive, that's what I'm talking about. You and I have to answer for what we believe, what we do, how we respond to the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made when He died on the cross to pay for our sins. I'll tell you what. I'm preaching every Sunday about this stuff down at Faith Bible Church on south 27th Street. Rather than us trying to 'coexist' out here across the parking lot, why don't you come by some Sunday morning -- the service starts at 10:30 but I don't start preaching until 11 or so -- and listen in. Then I'll take you out to lunch and we can kick around what I talked about. You can tell me too what you think, what you believe. Tell me your life story. No pressure. No hard sell. Just one conversation if you want. What do you say?"

He didn't say anything for a moment. But then he thanked me for inviting him and said he might do that someday.  "Well please know I'm quite sincere," I concluded. "I'd love to talk to you about these things and about how my whole life was radically changed for the better when I became a Christian. And you don't have to come to church either. I'll do lunch anytime we can fit it in."

He thanked me again and left, parking his truck up near the building and then going inside. We prayed for him together and recalled other security guards who have been employed by abortionists over the years. Some of them have been sadistic thugs but a few responded positively to our challenges to forego helping these barbaric businesses. We recalled one in particular who gradually changed her mind about abortion, about pro-life advocates and about her own life. She eventually quit but for months before she did, she had begun helping us in certain situations, even urging women to come talk to us about alternatives to abortion. We reminded each other of the importance of dealing with our opponents as courteously as possible. Not compromising or making light of sin but making sure that our demeanor is balanced, winsome and under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Conversions happen. And among all kinds of sinners. So please pray with us that this security guard is among that company. And let's pray -- fervently and frequently -- that that many, many more would walk away from the shame of this brutal industry and into the light of Christ's mercy.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."