The other day, I was walking to class and I saw an unusual sight. Although I do see the occasional adult who has decided to return to college (and then a few professors here and there, but they are always very recognizable), elderly men are generally an uncommmon thing to be seen on campus. Especially a lone man dressed in nice clothing and standing a few feet away from a sign that said: FREE BIBLES FROM THE GIDEONS.
I love the Gideons. And the sincerity on the old man's face made my heart reach out to him. In nearly ninety degree weather, the elderly man held out New Testaments to students walking by.
I was surprised at the abrasive responses I saw from passing students. Some waved the man off irritably, some ignored him completely, and some snapped "No!" or "I don't want one!" One student even said in an angry voice, "I don't want your Bible."
The responses made me sad. About a week or two ago, a couple of Mormons were passing out tracts to passersby, and while I didn't see the same level of angry reactions that were directed towards the old man, most students brushed past the two young men without saying a word. What's interesting is the fact that as a Christian whose set of beliefs is very different from the Mormons', I was very happy to say hello and smile at them as I walked by. Their efforts did not offend me at all.
Really, why is passing out Bibles so offensive? The old man wasn't threatening the fires of hell or judging the people around him. He wasn't even necessarily trying to convert people to his faith. He was simply passing out New Testaments... allowing students to study for themselves in order to know what they believed. He wasn't being malicious or holier-than-thou. He was only trying to share what he thought could help those around him.
As a Christian, it can be difficult to step out and be a witness. I've gotten snide remarks and dirty looks over wearing a Christian t-shirt. Sharing my faith opens myself up to even more anger. Witnessing is difficult and not always very fun, but it's the greatest expression of love I can think to give to those around me. This is why I'm not offended when people of other religions (kindly and politely) offer to share what they believe with me. The biggest way I could show love to an unbeliever would be to say, "This is what changed my life and this is what has saved me." Not to force my beliefs upon someone (because I am very eager to hear what he or she has to say about their beliefs, and if they say no, then I'm okay with that. I've done my part), but only to share what saved me. And this is all the Gideon was doing.
The students waved the old man away from them with expressions of resentment and irritation. The man nodded and smiled, continuing to quietly offer New Testaments to anyone who would take one. Out of probably thirty students I watched pass by, only one took a Bible and he did so without hardly stopping to look at the Gideon.
When the man saw me, he offered the Bible in my direction, the same way he had with all of the other students. I smiled at him and said thank you, hoping my words would refresh him after the torrent of negativity he'd received from other students. "God bless you," the old man said, grinning, and he took yet another New Testament from his nearly-full box to offer to passing students.
The Gideon's New Testament now rests in my purse and I plan to give it away someday. In love.