You meet a lot of interesting people in bookstore cafes.
We’re talking interesting.
Take for example a recent encounter I had coming out of a Books-a-Million bathroom. Yeah, you meet them there, too.
I was coming out and was met by a large, tall, older gentleman in jeans and lumberjack shirt with sleeves rolled up. I smiled as he held the door and thanked him.
“Do you believe in faith healing?” he asked.
“I do,” I answered carefully, my word trailing off.
He asked me to wait outside because he wanted to lay hands on me and ask for my healing. I mentally shrugged my shoulders and told him I would wait by the magazine racks. When he reemerged, he briefly explained a little about himself, that he is not a healer but healing comes through him and that he had recently seen a young lady come out of her wheelchair after praying over her. So far he was sounding…fairly sound.
He started rubbing his hands together. I was keenly aware of a group of book readers sitting in a grouping of chairs on the next aisle over, very much in earshot.
I was compelled to ask: “By what spirit do you operate? What or who is the source of healing according to your understanding?”
The man blinked, seemingly caught off-guard. “By God,” he said as if I were clueless as a cold case.
I explained: “It’s just that I am reticent to let anyone lay hands on me unless I know they have a relationhip with God.” I dug a little deeper, knowing ‘God’ means many things to many people. “You’re not a ‘New Ager’ are you?”
He chuckled and explained that New Agers believe we are all little drops in a great big sea and that the sea is God. He snorted as though repelled by such thinking. “That’s not God. God is the Creator.”
I felt a little safer, but still knew there are many stripes and streams of Christianity, most of it not biblical and apostolic, and people who like God a whole lot but, ironically, are not so sure about this Jesus person.
So I asked.
“Jesus?” A shadow fell over his eyes. Up until then you would have felt the man was your kindly Grandpa with rosy cheeks and affable chuckle. The moment passed abruptly and he turned into a caustic stranger.
“Jesus?” he repeated, “my power comes from God, not Jesus! Jesus was just a holy man who never claimed to be God. That was man’s invention.”
I countered that Jesus claimed divinity numerous times in Scripture. He snorted at me this time and said the Bible itself was a human book, written by man, to guilt man, and for religions like Catholicism to keep men in check. He told me he had grown up Catholic himself but was turned off by all the rules and hypocrisies and just could not abide the thought of a real-life devil and a place called hell.
Not only was this man NOT going to lay hands on me, I knew it was time to cut the conversation short. Or take it outside. He was becoming louder with each retort.
“Thank you for your time, sir, but I can’t have you lay hands on me.”
“Then just go ahead and suffer!” he snapped, swatting an arm in my direction. But he wasn’t quite finished.
“Go on and believe there’s a God who gets his jollies by throwing humans into a fiery place and laughing at their suffering!” He role-acted a divine being scooping people up with a spatula and flipping them into a fire, actually cackling maniacally.
I had to speak up, people one aisle over or not. I told him that’s not the God I serve; in fact, I know that God’s heart is broken into a thousand and one pieces every time man chooses his own way and sends themselves to hell. I took great humbrage to his caricature of a God poking burning men in hell and chuckling with devilish glee.
“Jesus may mean little to you, sir,” I continued, “but He is my Savior and my Healer and I love Him.”
Mean ol’ Grandpa clucked his tongue, again put off by my inserting Jesus into the dialogue. “I’ve been sent here to tell people they need to turn to their Creator God. They don’t need some Jesus to save them. I’ve been sent her to save your a—!”
Sent here? What does that mean?
“Save me from what?” I asked. “If there’s no hell or no judgment, what do I need saving from?”
He didn’t have a quick answer. He thought a moment, then said, “I can see you won’t make it to the Fifth World. If you’re okay with that, then have a happy life.”
“Oh, I assure you, sir, I am quite happy.” I had no idea what a ’5th world’ was but decided I didn’t need to ask and keep the conversation going as it was heading nowhere.
He pressed on. “The Bible is written by men. It leads people away from the Creator God…”
He held out his hands, palms exposed.
“I’ll tell you something else, but I know you won’t believe this either…”
Here it comes. Wait for it, wait for it…
“I’m actually an angel…”
Bam! There it is!
“I’m actually an angel sent down to tell people to turn away from Jesus and to their Creator God. I was put in this d—- body to warn people!”
Forgive me, but I had to stifle a laugh. He was sloppily overweight, had an incisor and molar missing, was old and hairy. If I was an angel I might have to protest and requisition for a replacement body. But that’s neither here nor there, I know. He said he was sent to warn people and “make them aware.” He said he could tell I wasn’t going to be convinced but could I at least read about it?
“Sure, just tell me where,” I responded diplomatically.
“On the internet!” he gasped. I thought it strange how he rejects the Bible outright but believes the internet.
“Yes, but where do I start my search?”
The man stumbled for an answer but couldn’t seem to point me in any discernible location.
“You tell me I need saving, that there’s a whole Fifth World I’ll miss out on if I’m not saved, and when I ask where I can find out more, you can’t even tell me?”
Some angel. Some savior.
“My mission,” he said defiantly, “is just to make people aware. I hope I’ve at least made you aware.”
Poor guy, I thought. Poor, deceived, misguided man.
“Yes,” I offered, “you did your job. You’ve made me aware.”
Without shaking hands, we parted ways at the magazine rack and met up again in the cafe, this time with absolutely nothing to talk about.
What would you have told the man?
“If I, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
“Test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh has come from God and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”
(1 John 4:1-3)
“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus IS the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name.”
*See also John 11:27; 1 John 5:1; Acts 9:22