Some questions are unexpected.
Years ago, I preached in a small town in middle Tennessee. A guy wandered in to our classes one Wednesday evening. His name was "Joe." He had huge bangs, hair that went over his forehead and then cut straight across (just above his eyebrows). (You may remember the old Three Stooges comedy. Think of Moe Howard’s haircut).
This was a small church. We were just glad to see a fresh face. This was also a small town. The people in that church knew a lot about the "goings on" of the town. Some knew about Joe. As teenager, he had a tragic and serious bicycle accident. He never was the same after that. His days were spent walking. He walked everywhere. When he walked, up and down the streets of this small town, he looked rather—intense.
He began coming to our church. And–we were glad to have him there. Sermons were more interesting with Joe there. In the middle of a message, I would ask a rhetorical question (you know–the kind you ask when you are trying to get people to think. You are not looking for someone to actually answer the question). I would be in the middle of a message and ask something like, "What do you think he meant by that?" Joe then raised his hand to answer. I looked at him and he began to talk. Hmmm. Right in the middle of a sermon. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson. I asked a few more rhetorical questions in that message and each time, he raised his hand to answer. (Not very bright on my part, huh.)
He and I began to talk about Jesus. One day, he told me that he would like to be baptized. Joe, myself, and another man from our church got together one evening to talk about this. We had a good conversation as we talked about Jesus, what it meant to be a Christian, etc. Near the end of the conversation, I used the word "repentance" and talked about the meaning of the word.
Now this conversation took place in our little church building (which at one time had actually been a store of some kind). We were seated near the large plate glass windows in direct view of the highway as well as another church building. For some reason, he began staring at the other church building.
He asked me what I thought about that church. "Do you agree with them?" I really wasn’t sure what he was reffering to. He then said, "I could burn it down. Would you like for me to burn it down?" He went on to say that at one time he had been in the KKK.
When he said that, time froze. I didn’t know about this KKK business. Maybe that was true–maybe it wasn’t. All I knew is that his words about fire startled me. In my mind, I could see the headline of our little local paper the next morning. "Church Burned to the Ground". On the front page would be a huge picture of this church burning. In the article there would be something about the minister of the church next door being held for questioning. Oh my…
I said something like, "No Joe No! Don’t ever do that!" He mumbled something and that was the end of that discussion.
And yes, the next day I drove past that church building and felt some relief it was still there, untouched by Joe.
I’ve been asked a lot of questions through the years. I’ve asked many questions as well. I’ve not had one quite like Joe’s before.
Some times, places, and people, I will always remember. At least it’s never boring…