We were walking down Sanford Drive. The sweet aroma of Georgia football was thick. We could hear the Redcoat Marching Band. We were surrounded in a sea of red and black. A hint of nostalgia warmed my heart as I caught a glimpse of Memorial Hall, the Tate Student Center, the University Bookstore, and the unsurpassed majesty of Sanford Stadium. For a brief moment, it was heaven on earth.
That's because, well, it became hell on earth, somewhat literally. A beautiful day in Athens and the excitement of opening day between the hedges turned sour as we encountered a group of men holding signs with condemning messages of the "lake of fire" that awaits sinners.
One group was making its way up to the corner of Baldwin and Sanford. Another trio stood firm with hands held high in hatred along Hooper Street, in front of Memorial Hall, as a band belted out contrived "Christian" lyrics to hard alt-rock guitar riffs (think Alice in Chains with the Jesus edge - "Jesus Chri-yi-yi-yi-yist!").
Anyway, I'm not trying to be critical of their musical talent. I'm simply saying that these folks have an opportunity to show God's love to 90,000+ people, but instead choose to be judgmental and send a message to others that isn't consistent with their supposed beliefs.
It upsets me (and embarasses me to some extent, I must admit) to be viewed as "the same" as those bullhorn-types when it comes to my faith in Christ. I know God is big enough to take care of himself, but I get awfully defensive. It really takes restraint for me not confront these folks. But, I know deep down that it would likely do even more damage to the cause of Christ. Besides, those folks are chomping at the bit to initiate controversy, and they invite scoffers because it fuels their "fire" (couldn't help the pun).
In the end, they too will have to answer for their actions and their public displays. I really cannot worry about that. But, I do pray for them.
And, don't worry, about 10 minutes after that, I was back in paradise, sitting with 90,000 of my buddies in Sanford Stadium, singing "Glory Glory to Ole Georgia" and watching the Dawgs take care of bidness between the hedges.