I was leaving the hospital one afternoon to meet a colleague for lunch, and I walked by the office of an obstetrician who performs occasional abortions for medical reasons.

It was hot, and I couldn’t help but notice two abortion protesters braving the heat

One man was holding a placard with pictures of aborted fetuses. He yelled out to me and another passerby pushing a stroller and asked us if we knew babies were being killed in this office.

Now, you don’t need to be the sharpest tool in the shed to conclude this man had no interest in dialogue, so I kept walking, giving no hint as to my beliefs or feelings.

Unaccustomed to being ignored, the man suddenly erupted with accusations that I was an abortion ally. His hate-filled tone assumed if he yelled loud enough, I surely would change the views he assumed I had.

In contrast, the other protester was a woman respectfully holding a sign that read, “Adoption is an Option.”

“Good afternoon,” she said as I walked past. I returned her greeting with a smile and kept walking.

Once in the restaurant, I told my friend how I’d happened on a street scene that was a living case study of how we often expect our faith to impact the opinions of others.

On one side of the street, there stood a woman whose sign quietly offered options, even if she didn’t agree with all of life’s choices.

On the other side of the street was a man accosting pedestrians offering only condemnation and judgment.

Now, so far in this story I think most of my readers are likely to side against this kind of sign-post terrorism. But don’t be too quick to pat yourself on the back.

The truth is, it only takes an instant for any one of us to become this man. You don’t have to be holding a sign.

All you really have to do is stop listening to people. All you have to do is turn a deaf ear to hurts in people’s lives. All you have to do is expect people to be perfect and not mess up their lives.

In short, you’ve got to imagine a world without grace.

Like many of life’s issues, abortion is an issue that can’t be fully explored on a placard. That’s because our lives don’t fit on placards. Our lives often are complicated, confusing and complex.

And the only way you can help people unravel life’s complication is to sit with them in their hurts, listen to them and help them explore their options.

When I returned from lunch, the two protesters still were there, albeit a bit wilted by the sun. I made a purposeful walk toward the woman holding the sign. I figured someone should say something to her.

I introduced myself as the hospital chaplain. “I have three adopted children and I appreciate the way you’ve chosen to express your views.” I told her. “Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water.”

I said nothing to the man. Like I said, I figured he wasn’t listening.