Monday, June 20, 2011

"Do you have good religion?"

Ever since reading The Children, by David Halberstam, I've been a huge fan of Rev. James Lawson. (Did I mention huge?? Completely in awe of him, might be more accurate.) So, I was excited when I got to church last Sunday and noticed that he was the scheduled preacher of the day. As expected, he did not disappoint.

"Do you have good religion?" he started. The topic already interested me.

"I know God has a hand on my life, but I have questions about what religion has convinced me to believe," he continued. I'm quickly getting sucked in and started wondering, "How is he going to break this down...and what is he going to say that I can apply to my life?"


It was very apparent to me that Dr. Lawson doesn't live in his Civil-Rights-hero past. He is very much in the present. However, to illustrate his point, he told about his experience on the Freedom Ride. He explained that during the stop where they were beaten and then arrested and put in jail, they experienced a lot of hatred and terrible actions. While in jail, they dealt with one guard in particular who was terribly abusive. Yet, even while experiencing the hatred and evil that came from him, Dr. Lawson recognized, "This man is a neighbor according to Jesus."

Wow. My faith just came alive again! All of a sudden, I had a new realization of what I do and why I do it! In the incidents I briefly explained in my last post, the drug dealer is a neighbor. The guy who was so "out there" on drugs that he traumatized several people is a neighbor. The guy who jumped me a few years ago for a few dollars is a neighbor.

Dr. Lawson went on to explain how they approached the situation in the jail cell. "We will try to treat that man the way he did not treat himself," he told everyone and then explained to the guard, "You are still a child of God and we will still treat you as our neighbor."

Again, wow. That is powerful stuff!

And what was the result of their actions? 

Change.

Did it work for everyone? No. Was it over night? No. Is racial reconciliation perfect today? No. But by approaching everyone as a child of God, what Dr. Lawson realized was that, "We have the opportunity to help our neighbor and to help them come alive--NOT by asking them if they have been saved!"

Dr. Lawson realized that the most powerful way to demonstrate Christ is not to ask if they've been saved or to work on "saving" them. After all, we can't save someone else, anyway, can we? The most powerful demonstration of Christ is to treat the person like a neighbor who doesn't even treat himself that way.

Our world is different today because of what people like Dr. Lawson did back then. How can I do my part today to make the world different for the generation behind me? The lesson is no different and it is no small statement.

Treat even the seemingly most "untreatable" as my neighbor.
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