Ohio State University: The Freedom to Say No to the Gospel

John C. Rankin

(January 12, 2014)

Do we love people enough to let them say “no” to the Gospel? Only if we are secure in our faith can we do so. In February, 1974, while I was an undergraduate student at Denison University, a group of us decided to go to the campus of Ohio State University. Our purpose was to pass out Christian tracts to people attending a meeting of Guru Maharaj Ji’s Divine Light Mission.

However, there were “guards” posted at the auditorium doors, running interference so we could not talk with anyone going into the meeting. After speaking with the guards for awhile, we had time on our hands. Thus we agreed to split up in twos and walk around the campus, seeking people with whom to talk.

A new Christian, Roger, accompanied me. As we headed for the main quad, a young woman walked toward us, and I extended a tract in her direction. As I did, she quickened her pace to get past us. I intended to leave it at that. But surprisingly, I watched as the Lord literally turned my head, and I heard myself speak these words, “Well, don’t you care for Jesus?” This young woman turned around, looked at us, threw her long hair back with a thrust of her shoulders and neck, nose in the air, and said bluntly, “No!” She requickened her pace.

I was devastated. I knew it was the Lord who had literally put these words in my mouth, but I was chagrined at her response. I resolved then and there never again to confront someone in such a manner, and indeed, I was ready to call it a night. It was a very cold evening, and a warm dorm room back at Denison was appealing.

But Roger was eager to continue. A few minutes later, a tall young man approached us. I told Roger we should pass on this one, but he said we should share a tract with him, and who was I to say no to a new Christian? I extended the tract, but in like manner as the young woman, he also quickened his pace away from us. That settled it for me, but not for the Lord. As Yogi Berra says, “Déjà vu all over again.”

I witnessed the Lord again turn my head, and again I heard myself pose the exact same words, “Well, don’t you care for Jesus?” This time, the result was the opposite. The young man stopped in his tracks, and forty-five minutes later committed his life to the Lord Jesus in prayer. I then made sure he became plugged into a campus ministry group.

As for the young woman, the saying of “no” is closer to later saying “yes” than an up front lukewarm response (cf. Revelation 3:16). And this I pray is what came to pass.