They told me on the streets to stay away from the man they called Max. They said he was dangerous and that he’d even killed people. So I tried to avoid him and was successful—until late one night.
I was looking for a garbage dumpster to sleep in, and I found one; the heavy lid propped open with a rock created an opening just large enough to allow air to circulate. I opened the top and began to climb in. As I did, I stepped on a person’s head. It was Max’s.
“I’m sorry,” I quickly apologized.
“Who are you!” he demanded.
“My name is “K-K-K—”
I didn’t have time to get my name out before he hollered, “You’re the preacher boy, aren’t you? Get out of here, preacher boy!”
I tried to climb out of the dumpster and had one foot inside and one foot out, when Max said, “No, wait! Get back in here.” With much trepidation, I climbed back in and sat down among the rotting garbage, less than twelve inches from the notorious Max.
“So, you’re the one who keeps talking about this Jesus. You don’t really believe that crazy stuff, do you?” He used some expletives I can’t repeat.
“Yes,” I replied, “I really do believe in Him, and He’s given His life for me because He loves me. And you know what? He loves you.”
Bam! Max slammed my head against the side of the dumpster. “Don’t tell me about His love. Nobody loves me. Now get out of this garbage can!” And I did… quickly.
A few nights later, I was walking down the street and heard a man behind me yell, “Hey, preacher!” Recognizing the voice as Max’s, I turned and immediately apologized for being on his side of the street. “No, wait!” he yelled. “Tell me about this God. Who is He?” I told Max that God loved him so much that He sent His Son Jesus to this earth. While He was here, Jesus gave His life to pay the price for all of the bad things Max had ever done. Suddenly, Max grabbed the neck of my shirt. Slamming me against the building where we stood, he demanded, “How do you know what I’ve done?” “Well, I’ve heard about you on the streets, but no matter what you’ve done, God can forgive you. He loves you.”
The next thing I knew, the back of Max’s hand struck my face. He glared at me a moment in silence, then turned to walk away. I stood looking after him, rubbing my sore jaw and thinking, “Okay, God, this is a tough one, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to lead this man to You.”
The next day I heard Max hollering, “Preacher, come over here!”
Touching my jaw, which still ached from our previous encounter, I crossed the street. Max looked to his left and right to make sure no one was nearby, which I’ll admit made me very uneasy. I had no idea what to expect from this man. Then, quietly, as if on some covert mission, he indicated for me to sit down with him on the sidewalk. He was ready to talk about Jesus.
Max had so many questions, and I explained in great detail how Jesus Christ came to Earth to die for his sins. I told him that even if he were the only man on Earth, Jesus would have died just for him. Max’s response was a mix of anger and hopelessness. He exploded, “I’m just a bum! I’m no good, and I’ve hurt and killed people. Jesus wouldn’t do that for me.” I assured him that He already had. “That was a long time ago,” Max said. “Jesus didn’t even know about me then.”
Shaking my head, I replied, “Max, He had you on His mind when He died.”
Suddenly Max’s resolve crumbled and his countenance changed. Tears began to stream down his tired, battered face. He grabbed my shirt with both hands and pulled me so close that I could feel his hot alcohol breath on my face. Through clenched teeth he said, “Are you certain there is a God?”
Looking him in the eyes, I replied, “Max, He’s here. Can’t you feel Him?”
“Are you certain there’s a God?” His words were fueled by pure desperation, and he searched my face for any indication that what I said was really possible. By now, his tears were a steady flow. “Max.” I spoke softly now, my voice heavy with compassion for this broken man. “You can feel Him, can’t you? You’ve been fighting Him all your life, but you know He’s here. He loves you, Max, and I love you. That’s why I’m here.”
Slowly he loosened his grip on my shirt and asked, “How much does He want? How much does He want to get this love?”
I answered, “It’s free, Max. It’s free. He’s already paid the price.”
He asked, “Well, what do I do?”
I explained to Max how to receive the free gift of God’s grace, and as we held hands, Max invited Jesus Christ into his life.
When we finished praying and opened our eyes, I saw a new man where the old Max used to be. His face looked different. The hard lines etched by hatred and anger had already been softened by the tender touch of God. He was a new man inside and out. The roughest guy on the street was now a believer.