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Tomorrow...or Today: an Edgy Short Story

[In these days of ultra-political correctness and protecting the minorities at the expense of our precious freedoms, you must decide whether this short story is a fable or a prediction.]

As I looked out at the congregation that morning, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Not until two men in dark suits came in together during the meet-and-greet time and headed for the second pew in the center section of the sanctuary. They stood out because nobody else ever sat that close to the front.

Hmm. A pastor search committee come to check me out, maybe? Sometimes that happened without my knowing it ahead of time. I’d recently felt God leading me to make a change. Although I’d prayed about it earnestly, I hadn’t taken any steps towards moving on. So I wasn’t expecting anyone.

Then again, these two men didn’t fit the typical search committee mold. Search committees normally consisted of four or five people, and they usually spread themselves throughout the sanctuary to avoid attracting unnecessary attention. Of course, ministers and congregations have a standing joke about search committees advertising their presence by their obvious effort to remain inconspicuous—especially when visiting a church that rarely has visitors.

I wondered if God was using these two men to answer my prayers. He’s big enough and smart enough to initiate a solution any way He chooses. Maybe He didn’t want me to send out resumes or make inquiries through my circle of pastor friends. I’d give Him a special thank you if He was trying to make things easy for me this time.

Why did I even think they might be a search committee? They looked too uptight. Too intent. Professional. And totally unspiritual.

Yes, that’s what struck me as inappropriate. They didn’t participate in the praise music, even though the rest of the congregation was having a great time singing and clapping to the music director’s selection of zestful songs. Throughout the sanctuary, I saw hands raised in praise. Mine went up a time or two, also. If they’d come to evaluate me and my preaching, I might have been concerned whether they would object to a hand-raising pastor.

But these two men hadn’t even pretended to be interested in the service. Instead of watching the lyrics on the screen above my head, they kept their eyes on me. I wasn’t sure either of them blinked during the entire service. I smiled once when I caught myself wondering if they had eyelids.

Snakes don’t, do they?

They never smiled once. And I couldn’t even clear my throat or scratch my nose without feeling self-conscious.

I normally take advantage of the quiet music playing during the offering to pray for my sermon, but I couldn’t get those two men off my mind. I tried praying for them—for whatever needs they might have—but that didn’t work. Even with my eyes shut, I kept seeing their eyes drilling into me.

I wasn’t sure I’d be interested in a church that would send such strangely inappropriate people to check me out. But I’d already decided these two weren’t here to do that.

Okay. If they’re not here looking for a potential pastor, then who. . . ?

I’d long since dismissed the possibility that they might be regular visitors. They were too disinterested in everything that was going on. A blind man could have detected that. But they were interested in me.

And only in me.

The offertory music was coming to an end, but—instead of feeling charged up and ready to preach—I felt troubled. Ill-at-ease. Something was wrong. I couldn’t see, hear, smell, touch, or taste the problem, but I sensed impending danger. Lord, thank You for warning me that something’s wrong, but I wish you’d be a bit more specific.

Wait. Two men together. They didn’t look or act like a couple, but still. . .how could I be sure? I didn’t want to be guilty of making a judgment like that. Not when that was the very thing I was getting ready to preach against.

The local newspaper had printed my sermon title in the religious section the morning before—The Bible Speaks about Homosexuality. I’d felt comfortable about preaching on that topic until those two men walked in. Why should their presence make such a difference?

Nobody in my congregation was openly gay, although most of my people had convinced themselves that two middle-aged male apartment mates in the choir couldn’t possibly be straight. Two grown women can live together for years without raising an eyebrow, but not two grown men over the age of twenty-five. While my congregants didn’t openly shun the suspected couple, they denied the two men friendship that should have been theirs as fellow believers.

Regardless of the truth.

That’s why I’d wanted—no, why I felt compelled—to preach this particular sermon. I was going to emphasize the fact that gays are sinners God loves as much as He loves us straight people. I wanted to remind people to quit trying to remove the splinter from the other person’s eye while ignoring the log in their own eyes. I wanted them to understand that sin is sin—and that all sins are equal.

I started my sermon by reading 1 Corinthians 6:9, which says that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. It is very explicit about what constitutes unrighteousness.

The visitors’ laser looks made me start sweating. I hadn’t felt that nervous in the pulpit in twenty years. Not even when being evaluated by a real search committee.

Next was Leviticus 20:13, which states in King James English that anyone who practices homosexuality “shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” I was getting ready to elaborate by pointing out that this Scripture was Mosaic law, which we as Christians would never adhere to, even if it were legal. We didn’t even condone that kind of attitude. Christ had given us a new law. Love. Unconditional love. As clichéd as it might sound, “hate the sin but love the sinner” summed up that part of His teachings.

But I never had a chance to explain.

The two strangers looked at one another for the first time since coming into the service. They seemed to be making an important decision. They faced me again. Something was going on. I stopped speaking, grasped the pulpit stand with both hands, and began to pray silently.

Almost immediately they were on their feet, rushing me. A third man came out of nowhere. I was startled—startled and terrified. I’d never had anyone interrupt a sermon like that. I hoped they weren’t going to pull out guns and start firing at me or the congregation.

“Gentlemen, what are. . .?”

I didn’t get to finish my question. Two of them pinned my arms behind my back. I felt the chill of handcuffs on my wrists as the third man flashed a badge in my face.

“We’re from the F.B.I. You’re familiar with the Hate Crimes Law. . . ?”