The day before Christmas Eve, a man came into a local shop with his wife. She showed him some items that she liked, asking for his opinion while his attention was focused on his phone. He mostly ignored her, except when he deigned to look her way skeptically, shaking his head in disdain at each item she suggested.
He was back the next day to purchase something and was rude to the clerks who helped him. As he left, he handed the young clerk this tract, titled “Are You Good Enough to Go To Heaven” by Ray Comfort¹. On the back of the tract, after 27 tiny print paragraphs mentioning hell, death, punishment and judgement 22 times, it stated “By the way, someone cared enough about you to give you this tract”. I call bullshit. Luckily, someone cared enough about the store clerk to make sure to immediately relieve her of the tract and gave it to me to write about.
If this person actually cared about the clerk (or his wife) a better way to show it would be treating them with respect and as a fellow human, deserving as his attention, respect, and kindness. Instead, he ignored and belittled them. If he believed the theology that was presented in the tract, his actions make sense.
The tract lists the Ten Commandments and all the possible ways the person reading the tract has probably broken them and is going to hell. It then it compares Jesus to a “parachute” stating “In the same way, the reason you should ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ shouldn’t be to find peace, joy, true happiness, to have your marriage healed or your problems fixed, etc. (to have your flight improved) but it should be to escape the jump to come– because of the fact you have to pass through the door of death.” (emphasis mine). Basically, the tract says Jesus is fire insurance.
In fact, the overall conclusion I drew from this tract was 1). You are a terrible, no good, awful person who is going to hell. 2.) Don’t try to do good things because, as Comfort states “… the worst thing you could do at this point of time is to try and clean up your lifestyle” 3.) You should trust Jesus only as your “parachute” to save you from hell. So the person who handed tract to the clerk, likely believes that trusting in Jesus is only to save him from Hell. Forget all the stuff about growing in grace, feeding the poor, loving your neighbor or “Thy Kingdon come on Earth as it is in heaven”. He was “saved”, so why worry about loving someone enough to be respectful. He just needed her to read the tract and “get saved” too. unfortunately, this man isn’t alone in his attitudes.
My friend tells the story of an entitled, demanding and rude couple who brought in an incredibly nasty car to be detailed. When my friend couldn’t get all the stains out, the couple complained over and over until the car had been cleaned multiple times. At the end of that horrible experience, by friend was handed a tract as a tip. Wait staff anecdotally say that Sunday after church is the worst time to serve because the Christian crowd is rude, leaves measly tips, or worse yet, no tip and a tract.
Jesus doesn’t call his followers to give out tracts. He calls us to love our neighbor. When he gave an example of loving our neighbor, he told the story of a person from a hated religious minority having compassion on a stranger who was probably bigoted against him. He bound up his wounds, spent money on him, and made sure he was cared for. He didn’t hand him a tract that said the wounded man was probably going to hell and walk off whistling, thinking what a good person he was.
In Matthew 25, Jesus talks to his disciples about those who followed him feeding, clothing, visiting and inviting in “the least of these” as knowing who is his followers and who is not. Yes, it is by grace we are saved and there is nothing we can do to earn that grace, but to follow Jesus is to meet the needs of the least of these. Showing you care about someone takes work. You might have to interact with someone respectfully who doesn’t like you. You might get dirty. You might have to spend money. Don’t be the lazy guy that thinks that being rude and handing out tracts means you care. It doesn’t.
1. “Are You Good Enough to Go to Heaven?” condensed from Hell’s Best Kept Secret by Ray Comfort published by Whitaker House