” … In that split second before the firing of the gun lies hope for the world.”
Just inside the door of the Missionary Baptist Church I saw a white man to the far left, so I turned right. I didn’t want us to “clump up,” so I asked a beautiful young woman with long eyelashes if anyone was sitting next to her. She said no, so I slid in beside her. Soon the rest of the row filled in. Then music started, then the swaying, then the “Amening.”
When scriptures were read, I didn’t have a Bible, but the woman with the long eyelashes leaned over with her phone. She touched the screen and the scriptures appeared. She touched it again and the Bible version changed. Together we listened, we sang, we swayed, we prayed.
Certainly there were a lot of things about the beautiful young woman that were different from me, but there were a lot of things that were exactly the same, things that matter.
A group of friends and I are studying Phillip Yancey’s book “Vanishing Grace.” The friends are a lot different from me but a lot the same.
Yancey relates, “Several years ago a Muslim man said to me, ‘I have read the entire Koran and can find in it no guidance on how Muslims should live as a minority in a society. I have read the entire New Testament and can find in it no guidance on how Christians should live as a majority.’ He pointed out Islam seeks to unify religion and law, culture and politics … In contract, Christians best thrive as a minority, a counterculture. Historically, when they reach a majority they too have yielded to temptations of power in ways that are clearly anti-gospel.
“The assumption of the voluntary principle, the central tenet of American Christianity, was the personal religious convictions of individuals, freely gathered in churches and acting in voluntary associations, would gradually and necessarily permeate society by persuasion and example.”
Yancey suggests a “coercive style that forces its will on the rest of society would betray Christianity’s founder who had resisted the temptation to exercise his own authority and died a martyr at the hands of a powerful state.”
“In the words of Miroslav Volf, ‘Imposition stands starkly at odds with the basic character of the Christian faith, which is at its heart self-giving — God’s self-giving and human self-giving — and not about self-imposing.’ Self-giving always involves risk. Yet that is a risk God took in granting humans freedom in the first place.'”
More than a decade ago I heard then-district attorney Forrest Allgood express his opinion on the answer to rising crime.
“History shows there are two things that will eradicate crime, but neither of them will ever happen. One is to have military law with a machine gun on every corner; the other is mass spiritual revival.”
Yancey quoted New Testament suggestions on how we might treat one another, meaning to offer everyone love, forgiveness, comfort, devotion, encouragement, kindness, humility, tolerance, truthfulness and prayer. Kindness matters.