A white man kills an unarmed black youth and gets away with it.
Four black teenagers break into a home and kill the owner. They are never found.
Stories like these are lobbed back and forth almost everyday. It’s like a game of racial volleyball. Talking heads ramble on and on about that unjust killing of a black youth. Frustrated viewers respond by posting stories, unreported by the national media, about black kids that killed a white father of two and got away with it. Al Sharpton says something stupid. Ann Coulter responds by saying something equally stupid.
Back and forth. Back and forth. Racial volleyball.
I never see or hear too many stories about young black males like the one that lives next door to the church that I pastor. This kid loves hip hop. And he sometimes wears a hoodie. Gasp! But on Wednesday nights when our church eats dinner together, he’s in the kitchen long before it’s time to eat. Usually I see him putting ice in cups for people. If that’s already been done, he asks if there is something else he can do to help out.
The national news never reports on people like Lynne. She treated her black neighbor like he was her own son. To the best of my knowledge, she still does. When he was growing up, they spent a lot of time together. She helped him get ready for going back to school. She corrected him when he was out of line. Most of all, she just loved him.
But these stories don’t fit the agenda. The agenda is that races are supposed to be divided in this country. And if we’re not careful to turn off the television and take a look around, we will buy in to that agenda.
That’s yet another reason why we need the gospel. It helps us to love and serve the people we’re supposed to hate and ignore. Paul gives us a good example.
He was locked in prison for preaching the gospel. God sent an earthquake that shook the prison, opening the doors, loosening the chains and giving every prisoner his chance at freedom. The jailer, the man responsible for guarding these prisoners, pulled out his sword. He wasn’t interested in using it to keep prisoners from running. He was going to kill himself. For him, suicide seemed easier than trying to explain his way out of the situation.
Paul could have walked on by, happy that the pagan jailer was finally getting his. Instead, he yelled. “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here” (Acts 16:28). Paul was thinking beyond his own needs. He knew that Jesus died for him, an overzealous religious murderer. And he also knew that Jesus died for that jailer. Paul’s words changed everything.
And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:29-31 (ESV)
God used Paul’s one act of selfless love to send this jailer from suicide to salvation. The gospel changes everything. And the change kept on coming.
And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. Acts 16:33-34 (ESV)
The man who had played a role in Paul’s persecution was now caring for Paul’s injuries, welcoming him into his home and feeding him. All because of the gospel. The gospel changes everything.
Al Sharpton is selling an agenda of divisiveness. Ann Coulter is too. And the national media is their vehicle. They, and others like them, are merely playing their part in this country’s long, ugly game of racial volleyball. But the gospel helps us to love those who are different from us. Even the ones who are supposed to be our enemies.
There’s a foster family in our church. One day two of the kids, one white and one black, were riding home in the back of the family car. They were talking about girls.
“I gotta get me a black girlfriend.”
“Because I’m African-American.”
“What? You’re not from Africa.”
Confused, the boy looked to the front seat for answers.
“Well, what am I?”
The answer that came back was a result of gospel truth. Gospel truth that changes everything.
“You are ours and we love you.”