“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols… for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you…” (Acts 17: 16, 23 NKJV)
Last week we were in the Paris suburb of Massy to help a friend, Christophe, with a street outreach. He wants to start a church. We had a big bus called “Ze Bus” from French evangelist Franck Alexandre’s ministry as well as a motivated team.
One day as I spoke with people I said to myself, ‘’The street in France is like an oriental bazar.”
During the course of a morning I spoke with a young Sengegalise Muslim, a very polite fellow. After that I offered a tract to a couple and I noted their hesitation. So I said, “We’re not Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
The woman responded, “That’s good because we are.” Errr ….
They were followed by an Algerian who was well-instructed in his religion. He gave us a lesson in Islam while we tried to slip in a word for the Lord.
Later we spoke with a young French man who said he more or less believed in the Buddist philosophy, then a couple of Catholics who were mad at the church and a whole assortment of others. Wow! Everything except faith in the Lord Jesus. We didn’t find many practicing Catholics.
Here’s a few ideas I gleaned from the street :
*If something bad happened it was God’s fault, even if the person had never really believed in God. An elderly lady who had lost her father in the Spanish civil war was openly hostile against religion and God gets blamed for every atrocity that idiots commit in His Name—even when He expressly told them not to act like that.
But the idea seems to be widespread: If He exists it’s His fault. Some said it bitterly but a couple of young guys expressed it as a genuine question. “Why?”
Second lesson : if you want to make an old Frenchman disagreeable, try to talk to him about God. Everyone seems to have a negative story about religion if they stoop to the depths of speaking with you. I’ve got a strong idea that some of these objections are just excuses so they don’t have to answer to God.
One time I told you about the two old cynics who sat in the balcony on the Muppet Show and made cynical comments. I met several of their cousins this week. My heart cries, “And the French Lord! You love them. Soften their hearts and draw them to Yourself.
Often it was easier to speak to Muslims than with the older French as we had a ton of good conversations with them.
And the excuses ? They show no trace of critical thinking. Just recyclyed ideas that someone threw up as if they were the end-all when the conversation turns to God. “If God exists why are there wars? Why famines. Why is my wife’s mother so ornery ? » As if God was making war and not men. As if the biggest part of famines weren’t of human making.”
If you’re going to object, at least use an excuse that’s well thought out. We do dumb stuff and blame God when we don’t like the results. Go figure.
*Christophe met a man who told him he had never sinned. Christophe must have looked a bit skeptical because the fellow continued, “That astonishes you, doesn’t it?” He said he was 99,9999% sure of making it to heaven.
Right next to them Christophe’s partner Micheline, a feisty lady of 65, was praying with a young man who opened his heart and asked God for forgiveness and eternal life. I wonder which one went home in better shape. A genuine, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” still works.
*There are a lot of hurting people out there. Some are asking real questions from a broken heart. A young Senegalese had questions because he couldn’t find work. I hesitated to speak to Edy as he came towards me, wearing a hood and gripping a liter of beer in his left hand. He’d evidently sampled a good part of it but he listened and openly expressed the questions in his heart. He was polite as I spoke to him of Jesus.
And that young man from Guinea … he touched me more than anyone. He listened attentively as I spoke to him of heaven. I was impressed by his attitude of respect, even though he was Muslim, but I felt a deep hurt in his heart and a search for something else. He left us his phone number and the pastor plans to follow up. Pray for Almany please.
I know that this Coffee Stain hasn’t been funny but like Paul in the text at the beginning of the article, I was moved by what I saw and heard this week. I love France but they are so lost when it comes to the knowledge of the Lord.
I think we’re in a critical point in history. Wake up. Call out to the Lord and go to your friends, your family and those around you. Speak to them about the Lord. He’s the hope of France–and whatever country you’re in as you read this as well.