A long time ago, back in the 1940s, back in the woods of south Mississippi, there was a daring revival preacher named Percy, who had an unorthodox method of drawing crowds to hear him preach.
Whenever he came to a town, Preacher Percy would ask the local people for the name of the most wicked, notorious sinner in town. Then he would condemn that person by name from the pulpit, creating great excitement in town to see if the sinner would repent or respond in some other way.
On one occasion, he arrived at a church near Natchez to conduct a week-long series of revival meetings. As usual, he asked for the name of the worst sinner in town, and they told him about a bad dude who had killed a man and gotten away with it.
With great drama and flair, Preacher Percy mounted the pulpit and condemned this particularly bad dude by name. He listed the man’s sins, which were many, and urged the people not to be like him. As word spread of these sermons, people came from far and near to hear the bold preacher. Soon the bad dude himself heard that he was the subject of Percy’s preaching, and he said, “The preacher had better stop, or I’m gonna kill him.” But Percy didn’t stop. He condemned the man all the more. Finally, the bad dude announced that he would attend the last night of the revival himself and kill the preacher right there in his pulpit.
A huge crowd showed up that Friday night. Anticipation was in the air. Preacher Percy calmly waited for the music to finish, so that he could preach. People nervously whispered to one another, wondering if the bad dude would show up, and what would happen if he did. It came time for Percy to enter the pulpit, and about the same time, people began to shout from the back, “He’s coming! He’s coming!” They had spotted the subject of the week’s sermons making his way into the building. The crowd parted for him to walk in.
All eyes were on Preacher Percy as he stood to preach. He said, “Let us bow our heads and pray,” and the restless crowd got deathly still. In fact, it got too still, because they did not hear Percy pray. After a minute of silence, people began to open their eyes, and discovered that a window was open, and Preacher Percy was making his getaway on his horse!
Percy may have been a courageous preacher, but that day his courage melted away.
It usually takes more courage to love unlovely people than to condemn them. We don’t have to approve of their wrong behavior, but we don’t have to alienate them, either. Scripture tells us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18, NIV).
So the next time you feel the urge to take somebody to task with your tongue, remember Preacher Percy. Stop what you’re doing and pray, but instead of running away, seek a way of “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:18). You’ll be glad you did.
(Copyright 2011 by Bob Rogers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read this column each Friday for a mix of religion and humor. For more “Holy Humor,” visit the Web site of First Baptist Church of Rincon at www.fbcrincon.com.)