Speaker’s Corner

In London, there’s a place called Speaker’s Corner. My friends told me that it was a corner of Hyde Park where people could literally “get on their soap box” and say whatever they want. With that in mind, I pictured a person standing on a box and a few dozen or so people sitting around that person listening to whatever they wanted to say.  Here’s what Speaker’s Corner actually looked like: 8-10 individuals standing on step ladders shouting various things. There were 50 to 100 people walking around (shopping mall style) listening to one guy shout, then moving on to the next. There were shouters with 20 people gathered around listening, and there shouters who had no one around them listening. What were they all shouting about? Religion mostly. Christians, Hindus, Muslims. A few random people here and there who were complaining about capitalism or republicans. It was overwhelming enough to be surrounded by so many people shouting. It was more overwhelming once I realized that the people who came to listen, did not just come to listen. They heckled, argued back, mocked, debated, and interrupted the people on their step ladders.

All the shouting and debates made me incredibly nervous. I started to shut down. I walked away from the corner to take a breath. I was about to call it quits, but I saw this one small man set up his “soap box” and get on. He started talking and he was the only one not yelling so I went to go see what he was about.  Right, before I got there another guy had walked up to listen as well. The man on the stool stopped talking when I arrived. He asked:
“Do you know where you’ll go when you die?”
“Yeah, Heaven.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Well, I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins so that I can go to heaven.” I spat out that VBS answer. I was still trying to get a read on where this guy was going. The other guy who had arrived before I did responded first.
“Well good,” he said to the guy on the stool as he pointed to me. “You got a friend here.” He continued. “So let’s say there’s this boy in China, and he never hears about your God. And then he dies. How is it fair that he goes to hell?” The guy on the step started to answer him, but did so in a very harsh way. The other guy just rolled his eyes and sighed. In the midst of their disagreement, they both looked at me and had this “See what I am going through?” look. Some other people walked up and stool guy started talking to them. Stool guy’s last words to me was “You see this guy? He is here every Sunday just to harass me.” I was not interested in arguing, obviously, but the question non-stool guy asked was intriguing.

So, I tried to answer him the best I could. And we talked for a little bit about the question he had asked stool guy. However, I  could tell he wasn’t listening because he kept asking the same question only in different ways even after I tried to answer. As I answered I got this huge pit in my stomach feeling, like, “Uh, this guy knows I’m a Christian and is asking me questions that I ask myself at night when I’m trying to fall asleep.. What if I lead him astray because I said the wrong thing?” I glanced around and realized that I was not responsible for saving this guy, nor was any person there at Speaker’s corner. It took a lot of the pressure off. I took a deep breath and started being real with him. “Man, look around at all these people. Like, what are they really accomplishing by yelling at all of us? I mean I’m a Christian, and I’m even turned off by this.” He agreed. I continued. “I mean I respect your beliefs, because you’re a human being and as long as we’re talking to each other I’m going to respect you. And I hope for the same.” We both nodded in agreement. “Also, I’m not much of an arguer to begin with. I’m just here to talk to people.”

“Oh really?”
A slight pause and then he asked.
“So, are you on holiday?”
“I’m a student here, studying abroad. I’m from Texas.”

And thus began a 30 minute conversation about life. Texas vs. London, psychology, the weather, hobbies. etc. He asked what I was studying and why. I told him psychology and told him some of my story. I didn’t leave God out of it but I wasn’t busting him over the face with theology. We laughed a lot. He asked why I had an Irish accent if I was from Texas. I had no idea I sounded Irish and we laughed some more. We were just two people conversing in the midst of hundreds of people arguing. We were literally the only two people in that area that weren’t arguing.   At the end of our conversation, I realized I had forgotten to ask his name. We introduced ourselves and exchanged handshakes. His name is Mesud.

I don’t know why Mesud decided to go to Speaker’s corner that day, or every Sunday for that matter. I don’t know much of his story or where his heart was when we talked. I do know that God loves him a lot, and is pursuing his heart daily. As Christians, I don’t believe we’re called to win every debate we encounter nor are we called to debate every non-christian we encounter. We are called to love. This love should transcend real life to our life on social media too. Just because it’s words on a screen doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for it, nor does it mean that it hurts any less. Love people at Speaker’s corner, on the internet, at your job, your school, in traffic. Put yourself aside, and let God’s love shine through you today, and tomorrow. And the next day.

Good applicable verses:

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

John 13:35

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.