Tag: church

Overcoming the Racial Divide

Overcoming the Racial Divide

The airways have been riddled with race talk in recent months. It’s troubling to endure a dialog that’s more like arguing than constructive discussion. With the Trayvon Martin case demanding center stage and more recent cases in the news, I continue to be saddened by our lack of progress concerning race relations.

I was born in 1961, right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. I remember my grandfather using the N word with no shame. Thankfully his son, my dad, did not continue the disgusting habit. Even as a child I sensed its hateful nature and rejected its demeaning tone. I grew up liking African-Americans and have been acquainted with a few along the way. But when I look country-wide, I realize we have a ways to go.

In church on a recent Sunday, my wife and I attended the overflow room, which only holds about 125 people. As the praise music began and church goers poured in looking for seats, I noticed a larger number of African-Americans than usual coming in. One family had 8 members. One Black gentleman sat next to me and there were at least 3 other Black couples.

As we sat through the service, I couldn’t help but think of the History of the Black American, especially in the USA. How they’ve been treated in the past, ongoing challenges and the current debate that dominates the airways. My heart swelled with all kinds of emotions; sadness, compassion and even honor as we sat in church together.

When it came time for us to stand up and shake hands with those sitting around us, I shook the hands of a Black gentleman beside me and one in front with a vigor that was mutual. It was as if we both knew that we were there for a higher cause, a common cause that rose above the pettiness of racial conflict.

The room included many Hispanics as well as we seemed to exemplify the melting pot America was supposed to become for all people, all races. The color of our skin is not supposed to matter, and it didn’t matter, except to demonstrate the variety of God and his creation so wonderfully on display in that little room. The love, grace and power of God had simply settled the argument with his presence alone.

I walked out of church that day reminded that Christ Jesus is the answer to our prejudice, our discrimination of others and our immature love for only those who are just like ourselves.

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A No-Limits Love

A No-Limits Love

In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace, Philip Yancey explains that his goal was not to merely to explain or dissect the meaning of grace, but to convey it. In regards to God’s love for us, I believe the story below accomplishes the same goal.

The story comes from Jim Cymbala, Pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. In his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Cymbala tells the story of someone many might find tough to Love.

“ I shall never forget Easter Sunday 1992—the day that Roberta Langella gave her dramatic testimony, as I recounted in Chapter 3. A homeless man was standing in the back of the church listening intently.
At the end of the evening meeting, I sat down on the platform, exhausted, as others began to pray with those who had responded to Christ. The organist was playing quietly. I wanted to relax. I was just starting to unwind when I looked up to see this man, with shabby clothing and matted hair, standing in the center aisle about four rows back and waiting for permission to approach me.
I nodded and gave him a weak little wave of the hand. ‘Look how this Easter Sunday is going to end,’ I thought to myself. He’s going to hit me up for money. ‘That happens often in this church. I’m so tired ….’
When he came close, I saw that his two front teeth were missing. But more striking was his odor.—-the mixture of alcohol, sweat, urine and garbage took my breath away. I have been around many street people, but this was the strongest stench I have ever encountered. I instinctively had to turn my head sideways to inhale, then look back in his direction while breathing out.
I asked his name.
“David” he said softly.
“How long have you been homeless, David?”
“Six years.”
“Where did you sleep last night”?
“In an abandoned truck.”
I had heard enough and wanted to get this over quickly.
I reached for the money clip in my pocket.
At that moment David put his finger in front of my face and said “No, you don’t understand—I don’t want your money. I’m going to die out there. I want the Jesus that red-haired girl talked about.”
I hesitated, then closed my eyes. I felt soiled and cheap. Me, a minister of the gospel…I had wanted simply to get rid of him, when he was crying out for the help of Christ I had just preached about. I swallowed hard as God’s love flooded my soul.
David sensed the change in me. He moved toward me and fell on my chest, burying his grimy head against my white shirt and tie. Holding him close, I talked to him about Jesus’ love. These weren’t just words; I felt them. I felt love for this pitiful young man. And that smell…I don’t know how to explain it. It had almost made me sick, but now it became the most beautiful fragrance to me. I reveled in what had been repulsive a moment ago.
The Lord seem to say to me in that instant, Jim, if you and your wife have any value to me, if you have any purpose in my work—it has to do with this odor. This is the smell of the world I died for.”


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