Early in his career, former Ku Klux Klan (a white supremacist group) leader Johnny Lee Clary met African-American Reverend Wade Watts at a radio station debate. “Hello Mr. Clary,” Reverend Watts said before they went on air. “I just want you to know that I love you and Jesus loves you.”
Cameron, a friend of mine, didn’t share my spiritual beliefs. He openly opposed Christianity and some of its moral tenets. One day in my previous workplace, he led a seminar on domestic violence and used it as a chance to bash the Bible. His “correlation” was illogical and inappropriate. The book that tells husbands to “love their wives as they love their own bodies” and instructs fathers “Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them” does not condone violence in the home (Ephesians 5:28, 6:4).
In February 2015, a terrorist group in the Middle East released a video showing the gruesome beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians (all men) on a beach in Libya. It is reported that prior to losing their lives, many were mouthing the name of Jesus, calling out to Him. It’s also reported that none of them denied their faith in Jesus. When our Christian brothers left their homes and families in Egypt to find work in Libya, they had no idea that they would become martyrs who stained the sea red with their blood.
One of our sons has endured bullies on his elementary school bus. Two weeks ago, he walked into the kitchen after school and with a quivering lip said, “I don’t want to ride the bus anymore.” It’s been hard for him to learn how to protect himself while also staying open to forgiveness (if the bullies show repentance) and the possibility of extending friendship to them.
Carrie Stuart Parks is a talented writer and an award-winning artist. But you may want to think twice before signing up to become her next work of art. Parks is an FBI-trained forensic artist. Most of her “artwork” is comprised of the drawings she has made of criminals through eyewitness accounts and the human faces she has rendered after viewing the remains of unidentified victims.
My friend Stephanie opened a resale shop in a small town. She planned to funnel the proceeds to a ministry for unwed teenage mothers. Soon another secondhand store opened nearby. The owners of that store began buying Stephanie’s items and reselling them at higher prices. Stephanie knew it was underhanded, but she found that it allowed her to get to know them and tell them about Jesus. And God has prospered her business despite the actions of those who could be considered enemies.
A Protestant denomination is proposing a new liturgy for christenings. The old ceremony asked parents and godparents two questions: “Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?” and “Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbor?” The new liturgy summarizes both in one question: “Do you reject evil, in all its many forms and all its empty promises?”
In 1943, Charles Brown was piloting a crippled aircraft when he saw another plane off his wingtip. The other pilot made eye contact with Brown and escorted his plane to safety before saluting and flying away. The story gets better—for Charles Brown was piloting a US bomber over the skies of Germany, and the other pilot was a German flying ace named Franz Stigler! Stigler treated Brown as a friend even though they were supposed to be enemies.
When I was hiking in a park with my grandfather, our trail lassoed a lake at the bottom of a valley. As we walked, several smaller paths broke away from the main trail. Each time we came to a fork in the road, my grandfather let me choose which way to go. I always picked the steepest, rockiest, most difficult choice. My grandfather sighed a few times, but he took on the most challenging path for my sake.
Nehemiah was grieved at the report of the dire state of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:3). He shared God’s heart for the holy city, but could do nothing about it in his position as a cupbearer for the king in far-off Susa. Then, his opportunity to make a difference came in a most unexpected way: by risking his life in making a request of the king (Nehemiah 2:4-5). A cupbearer wasn’t even permitted to express unhappiness on his face, let alone describe his grief because of the state of his far-off home. To say anything was to court death. But Nehemiah did.
In a Downton Abbey episode, beloved housemaid Anna Bates is brutally raped. It was heart-wrenching to watch her try to keep it a secret. The head housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, found Anna shortly after the assault—bruised, crying, and hiding in a corner. Despite the strong urgings of Mrs. Hughes, Anna told her to tell no one, not even her husband. She was not only afraid he would kill her assailant, but she also felt “dirty” and believed the attack was somehow her fault.
Pay it forward entails the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it by doing something kind for another person—not the original benefactor. In our fallen world, however, we sometimes “pay forward” pain by hurting someone in response to offenses committed against us—perhaps in the past—by a different person.
When my younger sister was 4 years old, a global dictator (who we’ll call Frank) was constantly in the nightly news and the contents of his angry speeches splattered across newspaper headlines. He was violent—spewing hatred and fear. My sister obviously had little political understanding, but she picked up on our national anxiety and understood that most people believed this dictator to be a dangerous, bad man. One day, my dad (who had taught us that God’s desire was for us to love absolutely everyone), quizzed my sister. “What do you think of Frank?” my dad asked. Perplexed, my sister carefully considered her reply. Finally, she answered. “I love him, but I wouldn’t play with him.”
Many odd and antiquated laws can be found around the world. In the UK, it’s an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing a British monarch upside-down, and in England specifically, it’s illegal to eat mince pies on the 25th of December. In one US state, women must get written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth. In Milan, it’s a legal requirement to smile at all times—except for funerals and hospital visits.