My belly’s full of food
My heart is full of love
My family is all around me
And even more looking from above
I can’t thank God enough
For everything I possess
I deserve none of it
It is all by grace; I confess
Sure, these material things are great
And the money I earn is fine
But I honestly can’t say
That the any of the credit should be mine
I owe absolutely all I have
To the one gives grace and hope
When I am standing on the mountain
Or at the end of my rope
I know I do not have much
In comparison to most
But, I can say I am content
Even though I cannot boast
I am truly grateful this year
For all the little things
And I pray that I will continue
To thank The Lord for what He brings.
If I were to be completely honest with you, I would say that this blog post is one of the hardest I have felt led to write. The reason is not because the topic is a difficult one to articulate or the fact that it is a particularly controversial stance on a “hot button” issue, but because of my heart attitude behind it.
As I get closer to Jesus, I have learned that God honors thoughtful response over angry outbursts. He values the offering of hope over a self-righteous decree of condemnation from my own personal soapbox. So, I want to write today out of love, grace, mercy, but firm resolve and I pray that God will be in my words. I want to talk about the concept of racism.
I sat in a big leather chair in front of a woman who had cried so much that I was afraid she would become dehydrated. He husband had cheated on her. The adultery was getting to be too common in their marriage, and after multiple transgressions, he once again told her it “would never happen again”. This woman was broken, angry, and had practically given up on long term joy in her life. My heart filled with my own brand of anger when she told me the lies that were told and the sins that were committed. The man that she was married to made her feel inferior. He made her believe things about herself that were not true. He made her think this was all her fault. On top of this, over the period of several years, he had made sure that she was removed from opportunities, relationships, more education and much of the outside world as a method of domination and control. She prayed that God would help her and He did. She divorced him and years later, she married the man of her dreams. She also forgave her ex-husband.
The problem is, I really want to hate this man. The carnal part of my human existence wants to show him how wrong he is, and make him pay. I know, however, that a life lived controlled by God’s spirit compels us to seek a much higher level of conduct.
You see, if Christ lives in a person, has complete control, and has forgiven them…it is really hard to go on living with hatred towards another human being. That doesn’t mean that the temptation is not there, but there is a power that is greater in you than that which is in the world.
Racism, at its core, is a systematic desire for a group or groups to express their perceived superiority over others. Often times they will single out a particular community, and do what they can to separate them from society, tell them lies, and openly display their hate for them. In essence, there is not much difference between an adulterer and a racist individual. With that being said, there is a part of me that wants to treat someone who is racist with the same contempt as I would the adulterer. I can’t though. I can’t because I have no idea what type of lies that person has been told throughout their life, and I have to believe in my heart that they are eligible for restoration and love as much as I am. If Jesus cannot heal them, then His death on the cross was a waste of time. Sin is sin.
This doesn’t make the whole issue any less frustrating though. I have heard people who wear gold crosses around their necks say the most awful things about people of different races. This is confusing for many reasons.
So, here is my overall thought. There is no such thing as a Christian racist. I say this, because I have heard people getting upset at the Church for racist acts they have seen in media outlets. And, there have been people who have displayed racism in their lives who claim to be believers. Let me make this very clear. Not disagreeing with the Bible, going to church on occasion, and being raised in a semi-religious home does not make someone a Christian. Nor does giving oneself the label of “good”. A Christian is someone who desires to be like Christ, associates themselves with His crucifixion and resurrection, allows God to transform them, allows the Holy Spirit to guide them, and who has accepted the forgiveness that Jesus offers; all while bearing the fruit of the Kingdom. So, there is no such thing as a “Christian racist”. It cannot exist. Christianity and racism are like oil and water. Sure, there are people who have accepted Christ and who have had to repent of old habits that have arisen temporarily, but that leads to deep grieving and change.
Jesus led by example, and when He wanted to emphasize a virtue, He displayed the virtue through His action. Look at the story of the Woman at the Well in John chapter 4. There were two main issues being addressed when we look deep into this story. The first issue was the sin (and thus the cure) in the life of the woman (who happened to be a Samaritan). Water was just the illustration. Jesus offered her a way out of her constant searching for love, fulfillment, and forgiveness. Jesus took care of all of that, and offered her abundance. The second issue pertained to race. This woman was astonished that a Jew would even speak to a Samaritan, not to mention offering her something to drink. This was unheard of, because of the deep racial divide. In other areas of scripture, the implication is that even the disciples accepted this divide as common. Jesus shatters this mentality, loved this woman, and contradicted the culture.
Hope exists, because there is a God who fashioned all of us from the same dust. This same God declared that we were made in His image. This is a foundational belief in the Judeo-Christian world view. Hope comes from the fact that God forgives and transforms human hearts. He forgives.
The old me wants to hate people that are full of racism and hatred. I have realized that this type of hate is the same brand of hate as those wielded by racist individuals; only in different packaging.
So, a Christian, if guided by the Holy Spirit would spend more time serving, loving, giving, feeding, clothing, proclaiming truth, and praying than complaining and allowing anger to fester and grow. In fact, Jesus did his ministry in the shadow of pagan statues, unholy temples, and hateful hearts. His mind and heart were focused on the people, and He knew the only true kingdom was not this way.
The heart of the Christian is occupied and Jesus does not need a roommate. Hate does not fit.
As followers of Jesus we are called to speak out against hatred of every kind. We are also called to serve those who are not following God.
I end all my blogs the same way…but today I mean it more deeply than I have in the past. With a broken heart yearning for reconciliation, I say it once again…
Love you all.
In ancient times, names had significantly more meaning that they do now. We often name our children based on an inspirational word, or significant person from our past. Sometimes names become synonymous with an influential (or infamous) person. For instance, you may meet a wonderfully nice and respectful person named Charles Manson (you can imagine it would be common) but you may be a little skittish to allow him to come over for dinner.
Long ago, a name associated a person with their life’s work or even their ancestors. A first name that carried down from a father would carry certain responsibilities. There would be a requisite legacy that would be implied. A last name would often display the person’s craft or occupation. Tanners tanned animal hides. Smiths made things with their hands. Archers were skilled hunters. You get the idea.
My middle is Byron. If you were to look at the meaning of this name in a database of name origins, there would be nothing that really stood out. In my family, there is deep meaning in this name.
This name that is often only represented by an initial on important documentation comes from my grandpa, Byron (nickname: Barney). He was a soldier in the Korean Conflict, and understood what it meant to fight, survive, and experience immense suffering. His job in the military was to make sure the infantry had their supplies so they could fight and withstand the enemy’s advances. He told stories of times when he would be in a fox hole, and lacked confidence that he would live to see another day. In those moments, he leaned on the word of God and prayer. You can imagine that they were prayers that were hurried, imperfect and broken, but those utterances began to lay a foundation for the future. A long lasting relationship was formed because his prayer life started out of desperation.
Throughout the rest of his life, his prayer life grew, matured, and deepened. This was so much the case that people sought him out to give him special prayer requests. When he prayed, things really happened. Often I would catch him seemingly referring to Jesus as a brother and friend. He knew God was far above him, but there was such an intimate closeness that he imagined himself as an ancient disciple, following his best friend around, doing miracles out of habit. My Papaw was known to be a mighty prayer warrior. Daily he would take hours to spend time doing his real business; praying. For him, the time went quickly as it often does when one spends time chatting with an old friend. He didn’t just ask God for things either. He praised, learned, and got to know Jesus better through these times.
I had the privilege of seeing power released during these times when he called out to God. I have seen miracles happen in front of me because of things whispered. I learned to never look at prayer as a high and lofty pursuit, or as a business meeting with the CEO, but a relationship building conversation with a friend or a tired cry in the lap of a father. So, please forgive me when I grin when people call this life a fairy tale. To me, it is just like telling a recently deployed soldier that war is not real.
I have my Papaw’s DNA in me. I have his name too. This carries responsibility. I am not sure why, but people come to me often with prayer needs, and I get excited to include that in my daily visit with my Father. I want to have a deeper prayer life like he did. I want to be closer to God in ways people dream of. I don’t care if He ever answers another prayer I pray. I just want to talk and listen. I want this, because I know power is released when this happens.
Papaw was a warrior (my Mamaw is also one). Until the day he died, his job never changed. I gladly pick up the job where he left off and make sure those on the field have what they need to withstand the enemy’s advances. All I know is that, when I pray, things happen. You can call it chance or luck, but these “coincidences” seem to occur more when I cry out to God. So, I will stick with my routine. I just need to keep my heart clear, and stay serious about the work.
Next month, we will celebrate 4 years since he left us to live with his best friend and King.
My grandfather was not overly special. He just prayed.
Love you all.