Friday, January 21, 2011

When Hecklers Are Unreasonable

Recently my good friend and member of the "On the Box" team, Brad Snow posted the above picture on Facebook, with the caption: "Don't try telling me that I ain't got no pancake mix!" Both the photo and its caption were in reference to the following video--a video that received almost a cult-like response with more than two million views. The young man in the video is also an entrepreneur, capitalizing on the popularity of his 45-second video by creating a "You Ain't Got No Pancake Mix" t-shirt, which he sells online for $17.99.

Note: I have no idea who the woman is in the video. Sharing the above video is not an endorsement of her. I have no idea what she believes or what gospel, if any, she preaches.

Brad, one of the nicest, gentlest brothers in Christ I know, posted the picture for no other reason than to put a smile on the faces of his Facebook friends. Of course, Brad was asked the obvious first question: "What's the story behind the photo?"

Brad went on to explain that on more than one occasion he has had someone heckle him the same way--by yelling, "You ain't got no pancake mix!" Brad, always thinking, and obviously enjoying pancakes the morning he posted the picture, had a thought: "Why not have a box of pancake mix on hand, just in case I'm faced with a 'pancake mix' heckler?"

Well, not everyone saw the humor in Brad's post. One person suggested that unsaved hecklers are not to be made fun of because they are lost and bound for Hell.

I certainly can understand and affirm the point. No Christian, preacher or otherwise, should ever make fun of the spiritually dead and lost state of the unbeliever--no matter how vile and mocking their heckling might be. Of course, Brad would agree. In fact, he said as much in the comment thread associated with the picture he posted. Brad wasn't making light of the heckler's spiritual condition. He was thinking tactically.

As I watched the comment thread grow, I, too, began to think tactically. But I wanted to make sure my thinking was also biblical. To respond tactically but not biblically to hecklers is to do little more than war in the flesh, to clash verbal swords on a level that does little more than promote and display the sinfulness of all parties involved.

I tried to put myself in the place of the woman preaching. It wasn't hard to do as I've been in that very position more times than I can remember. I asked myself, "How would I respond?" I also asked myself if Brad's suggested tactic could be supported biblically. I believe the answer to the second question is yes.

"Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself" (Proverbs 26:4).

"Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes" (Proverbs 26:5).

Answering hecklers is not easy. The war between the flesh and the spirit, a war that rages within the heart of every born-again believer including the open-air preacher (see Romans 7:7-25), can make knowing how to respond to a heckler a challenge, especially in the heat of the moment. "Do I answer? Do I let the comment pass?"

If I were preaching in the open-air and, like in the video above, a young man with a smirk on his face (and premeditation in his heart as the first few seconds of the video indicate), began to shout, "You ain't got no pancake mix," while mockingly pointing at the Bible in my hand (as the young man did in the video);" if I had a box of pancake mix on hand I would take it out and say, "Why, sir, but I do have pancake mix."

I think such a tactic would "answer [the] fool in his folly," keeping him from being wise in his own eyes (Proverbs 26:25), without making me a fool like him (Proverbs 26:24). It would likely win at least part of the crowd to my side and may shut the mouth of the fool.

It's also important to note that presenting a box of pancake mix in this particular situation would not be "responding in kind" to the heckler (Proverbs 26:24). Attitude is everything. Making light of the heckler's antics, not his spiritual condition, is not sinful; so long as the intention of the one holding the pancake mix is simply to diffuse the heckler, taking away the hold he or she may have on the crowd.

The above can be applied to any situation involving an unreasonable heckler--one who is bent on keeping the preacher from preaching and keeping the gospel from being preached. If you are an open-air preacher and you find yourself in this kind of situation, before your respond to the heckler, simply ask yourself the following:

If I say or do what I'm thinking of saying or doing will it make me like the heckler (Proverbs 26:24)? Or will it will it rightly show him for the fool he really is (Proverbs 26:25)?