The barista was a normal enough looking guy – for Hollywood at least. What was unique were the thick DIY letters tattooed across his fingers that spelled out G-O-D I-S D-E-A-D. Whether carefully pondered or hastily rationalized, forever and always he would be telling himself the lie burned into his fingers that God is dead.
The lie rattled everything inside of me and made me want to scream, “You’re wrong!” He’s not dead, He is alive. Someday you’re going to need to tattoo in the word “not” to turn this lie into truth.
I held my tongue as he fixed my coffee, all the while listening and observing. Listening to God – and observing the man across the counter in front of me. What was it in his life that had prompted the tattoo? Had he grown up in church? Raised in the Word? What happened along the way that would turn him into a cynic?
He turned back with my coffee, holding out the steaming macchiato. It was the perfect opportunity to say something, to address his faulty theology and tell him he was wrong. Instead, I gave him a smile and a warm “thank you” as I slipped a dollar bill into his tip jar and maneuvered away while he waited on the next customer at his counter.
So often we speak first before listening. That day, I didn’t present the Roman road to salvation. I’m sure he had heard it enough. And I didn’t admonish him about the message on his fingers. Despite the words on his fingers that dared me to counteract with a scripture or verse, I didn’t allow my troubled spirit to speak – but rather turned to prayer.
I prayed that his soul would be healed. That whatever had caused him to believe or shout out to the heavens that God is dead would be open to the truth. That the blinders the devil had plastered on his eyes would be removed. That he would be able to believe and receive the God who is alive and very much interested in every aspect of his life.
I believe that we all have a role in saving another from death, in leading them to salvation. I firmly believe there is a time to speak and share life-giving words of truth, but there is also a time to smile and listen, to look deep into a person’s soul and understand the need of the moment.
“And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” Jude 23