I was walking a sidewalk on Palafox Street. It was dusk. I saw the kid walking toward me with a buddy. He wore a necktie, khakis, and backpack.
They were passing out flyers. I noticed him from a mile away. I tried to avoid him. But he nailed me.
The red letters on his paper flyer read: “Heaven or Hell?”
Then the kid said, “Do you know where you’re spending eternity, sir?” Then he told me all about the hot place where I would probably be going.
A fine howdy-do.
Things got quiet. I thought it was wise to keep my mouth shut, since no particularly sweet words were coming to mind.
The truth is, I can’t recall ever being told that I’m bound for Hell. In times past, however, certain people have suggested that I visit.
I wish I would’ve answered the kid, but he left before I had a chance to respond. So, on the off chance he’s reading this, I’m answering you now, friend.
For starters: I wish you would’ve asked me what I believed instead of where I’ll be staying after I kick the oxygen habit.
I would’ve enjoyed a question like that.
I would’ve told you that I believe in good things. Big things. Love, kindness, charity, compassion, and the Lonesome Dove miniseries starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones.
I would’ve also told you about a bar fight I once saw as a young man. It happened in a beer joint in the sticks of South Alabama
A skinny kid and a large man resembling a gorilla were about to rip each other’s eyeballs out. A crowd circled around them, holding beer bottles, hollering.
I bet ten bucks on the big fella.
Before the fight began, an old man stepped between the boxers. He took one blow to the jaw. It knocked him to the ground.
He stood up with a swollen face. Then, he started reciting the Sermon on the Mount with a bloody mouth.
He shouted: “You’ve heard it said, LOVE your neighbor and HATE your enemies. But VERILY I say unto thee, love your enemies…”
The air changed. I’ll remember that night until they lay me down. Onlookers set beer bottles on the ground and bowed heads.
That man spoke for thirty minutes. A few men cried. There was no fight, only sniffles, three rededications, and one man claimed he got healed from bursitis.
I lost ten bucks.
But I didn’t get to tell you about that, friend. Because you were too busy sending me to Hell.
Neither did I get to tell you about Paisley Corbitt—a little girl who fights cancer harder than you or I have ever fought.
Or about Mighty Ike Coolidge—a boy who fights a similar war. The toughest cowboy I know.
I didn’t get a chance to tell you how much I believe in my mother—a woman who woke up before the sun every morning to read a scuffed Bible before work.
Nor did I tell you about the homeless Mexican woman my wife once invited to live in our guest bedroom.
I never told you about the ninety-four-year-old preacher in the nursing home who once told me: “God’s heaven ain’t far away, son. It’s right here. Right now.”
We could’ve had a great time talking, friend. We might have even learned something from each other. We might have learned how to disagree.
We could have shaken hands, even though we don’t see things the same way. We could have become friends.
But that didn’t happen. And if you ask me, that’s a crying shame.
Thanks for the flyer.
CaroG87 - March 22, 2018 9:45 am
Lisbeth Garecht - March 22, 2018 10:15 am
Thank you for explaining how I feel.
annie - March 22, 2018 10:23 am
Sherry - March 22, 2018 10:35 am
I love the way they turn away when you do challenge them…I appreciate their earnestness, but I pray for their shallowness. My God loves me in spite of my weaknesses and through grace I will not go to Hell.
John - March 22, 2018 11:19 am
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Steven Porter - March 22, 2018 11:27 am
Jacqueline C Miles - March 22, 2018 11:35 am
Yes, it is about love and how we treat people, but it is about a relationship with Christ ultimately. Heaven and Hell are real. Don’t be deceived.
John - March 22, 2018 11:54 am
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
Pam - March 22, 2018 11:56 am
Marilyn - March 22, 2018 12:16 pm
Well said my friend,well said.
Kristine D Schmelter - March 22, 2018 12:17 pm
Absolutely love the lesson as always!! Thank you Sean!!
Farkus - March 22, 2018 12:28 pm
John 3:16 “ for God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”
Connie - March 22, 2018 12:29 pm
ponder304 - March 22, 2018 1:32 pm
I sure pray this young man has learned about our “Good, Good Father”! Spread love …..
Mary Collett - March 22, 2018 1:44 pm
Thank you,Sean, for bringing sunshine in each day with your writing. It’s good to know that little girl I have been praying for is still fighting. God is good.
Laura - March 22, 2018 1:45 pm
While I appreciate the young man’s probable intention (to share the Gospel), I think his approach is more likely to turn folks away. What I see in you, Sean, is love- love for others, seeing the good and sharing that. You “pass on” good that you have experienced in family, Jaime, people you meet in beer joints, restaurants, churches, etc. You show love in your actions and your stories. I thank God for you and the difference you make each day in my life! Thank you!
Phyllis Taunton - March 22, 2018 1:47 pm
Wonder, inspiring words – thank you!
Jack Darnell - March 22, 2018 1:54 pm
Aw Sean, you know the kid is just parroting what someone told him to say. He couldn’t have answered the hard questions, I have a tough time myownself. LOL I do hope he reads this, or something similar. I sure wish I had the answers. BUT I do like your attitude! (Big smile)
Sue Cronkite - March 22, 2018 1:59 pm
“But remember,” my mother used to say, “he meant well.” Good post, Sean.
Pat - March 22, 2018 2:29 pm
And also Sue we southerners preface a statement with “bless his heart but……..”
Crystal Lamberth - March 22, 2018 2:24 pm
I hope your response finds this young boy, I am sure his intentions were pure and good. He just needs work on his delivery, and you my friend have it down pat!
Jack Quanstrum - March 22, 2018 3:15 pm
Amen, Amen, Amen! Thank you for a story so full of wisdom and food for thought!
Edna B. - March 22, 2018 3:23 pm
I agree, Bless his heart, he meant well. Well said my friend, you have a great day, hugs, Edna B.
theholtgirls - March 22, 2018 3:23 pm
Some people are convinced that you have to get people lost before you can get them saved. I disagree, because we start off lost and “you” can’t do anything to save “me” – that is the work of Jesus.
In Matthew, chapter 7, I read:
Many will say to [Jesus] in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then [He] will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
It is only through faith in Jesus (accepting His sacrificial death on Calvary as the payment of our sin-debt) that we can receive salvation from our sins. “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.'” (John 14: 6, NLT).
Sean, thank you for your heart and for the way you deliver love through your words. Your words make His Word sing.
I wish you could bring this flyer-sharing boy to Memphis and see the Mid-America Passion Play. Tonight is opening night, and it is our desire to show what Love really looks like! Pray for us?
sandra mattucci - March 22, 2018 6:40 pm
A dear friend introduced me to your site weeks ago AND what a ‘gift’ to be immersed in GOOD News. I’m a writer myself (poet) and an artist placing images on paper when words no longer write me—
I’m playing your ‘musings’ forward.
Beau - March 22, 2018 6:58 pm
Thanks again Sean. Great commentary. I wish I could meet you, and make sure to give you an introduction to my Savior and Friend, Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Christ. He loves you and me, and all the people on this planet. Hope I see you in heaven.
paula jones - March 23, 2018 1:18 am
Steve Michaels - March 23, 2018 3:07 am
That kind of street evangelism works for some people, but mostly it is a turn off. For some people, Christianity is a spiritual club that gets you into heaven. As if that were it’s only purpose. Sean, Christian faith is about love. And not just loving people who are just like us. It’s about loving the poor, the strangers, the druggies, the shut-ins, the homeless, those in prison. Its about grace and forgiveness that we get and give. You get this very well. You are following Jesus very closely. You do this without preaching. Your column, in it’s its own way, brings me closer to Jesus. It’s kind of a daily devotional for me and makes me a better, happier person. Thanks.
Wendy Franks - March 23, 2018 3:17 am
Wonderful, Sean. How we agree with you!
Thankfully, Janet Mary Lee - March 23, 2018 6:34 pm
Love this! Jesus made time to really know a person’s heart. Of course, he also had an inside advantage. I do see this same listening and love in you. We are all in our journey of maturing our beliefs and faith. No mistake, some do not see the Truth. Pretty sure I will see you again. That is the promise and lovely mystery!
David McGowin - March 23, 2018 8:00 pm
Jesus was comfortable around people who were nothing like him. And people who were nothing like him, liked being around him. That is how it should be for anyone who says they follow him.
Lisa Weber - March 27, 2018 10:49 pm