Friday, June 12, 2015

The Pastor, the Black Man, and My Father

The story came to me second- or third-hand, so the details may be wrong . . . but the details don't really matter.

In the latter years of my father's struggle with Alzheimer's, many of his old friends started coming to my mother sharing stories of how he had made a difference in their lives. One of them was our pastor, a godly, well-educated man who happened to have a very strong Southern accent.

Pastor shared how, when he first came to our little Southern Baptist church, there was an African-American man in the congregation (we'll call him "Bill") who clearly had a distinct dislike for him. Pastor didn't know why, although he had his suspicions. But he waited patiently, hoping to win him over in time.

Then the day came when Bill's wife didn't get a Sunday School teaching position she wanted. There was nothing malicious in the decision -- a decision Pastor had nothing to do with anyway. But Bill arrived at that evening's church service breathing violence, making threats, demanding to speak to the pastor alone in his office right now. Pastor agreed to speak with him, but only if my father was there, also. Bill agreed.

Once the office door was closed, Bill began to rage. You hate me . . .You did this . . . You did that . . You've always done this . . . You're a racist! . . . You're a hypocrite! . . . You hate me!!.

Pastor and my father sat quietly and let him vent. When he was finished and stood panting in front of them, there was a long pause. And then my father leaned over, looked the angry man directly in the eye, and said calmly and purposefully:

"Bill, you know that nothing you just said is true. You know Pastor is not a racist. You know he does not hate you. You know he loves you as a brother in Christ. Everything you just said is a lie . . . and you know it."

Bill looked at him for a minute. Then he looked at Pastor for a minute. Then he sat in his chair and began to weep. And the hour that followed was filled with old stories, old injustices, old hurts, and long overdue forgiveness and healing. The brotherly love I saw between these two men in all the years I grew up in that church never gave any indication of this rocky start in their relationship.

Praise God, He is Jehovah Rapha, the God Who Heals.

I am honored that God chose to speak love and truth through my father that night. And I wish there were more voices speaking this way to people today.

Yes, friends, you have been wronged. Your pain is legitimate. There has been injustice and there still is. But let's live in the truth.

Citizen, this police officer did not stop you just because you're black.

Friend, this neighbor does not hate you because you're a lesbian.

Son, this teacher does not call you out more because you're Latino.

Sister, this boss did not pass you over for that promotion because you're a woman.

Brother in Christ, this comment is not an attack on you because you're a Christian.

There has been injustice in the past . . . and there is injustice now and will be in the future. But that doesn't mean that THIS is injustice, or that everything is injustice. And it is no answer or solution to injustice to accuse other innocent people unjustly.

Be committed to truth. Walk and live in the light. If we want others to not make assumptions about us based on our "type," we must afford them the same courtesy.

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