MLK Day: God's Love Strengthens Against Prejudice
- Lucy Neeley Adams
- 2007 15 Jan
Since the early days of America, there have been many gifted people, of all races, who are a part of the greatness of our country. During Black History Month in February, the media focuses on the many contributions made by African-American leaders.
But why was this not always an important part of American History classes?
For years something has been going wrong in human relationships. Many people have not allowed the perfect love of God to freely flow through them. So those in a minority, as well as those in a majority, have been held in a box called prejudice.
It has been stated that prejudiced people have a biased opinion. What is the root cause? It may be a result of family background. Or it could originate within the wounded soul of the one who is prejudiced. There may be deep hurts within that soul that need to be healed. A person's low self-esteem also contributes to the way in which others are treated. The evil of it is that in order to feel good about oneself, he or she must degrade others.
This human problem is not only with two races, but with many people who look different. When my family was preparing to go to Korea as missionaries, one of my cousins said, "Well, I'm glad I'm not going. I don't like your squinty-eyed friends." I felt very sad about her prejudice. When we arrived in Korea we discovered that many of those new friends were so wonderful that they would bless our lives forever.
When I dust our bookshelf full of family pictures, I always pause to look at two special people. During Black History Month, no one will see them published on the pages of newspapers, nor do they have books written about them.
But, they are a vital part of my growth and that of my husband. In childhood, God placed a ton of love in our hearts for these two people. John McCadden was a janitor at the church where Woody's father was pastor. They had many years of a close relationship.
The other picture is of Lurline Argo, who was a maid in our home. She was like a second mother to me. I was nurtured with her loving heart and I felt secure in her presence.
So it was natural that we teach this kind of love to our children, as we raised our family. We had friends of all races and nationalities.
However, there came a day when we discovered we were to have an African-American son-in-law. Then we began to think of problems that may arise. An inter-racial marriage might bring some unforeseen suffering to our family. If grandchildren were born they would be bi-racial and that could also cause more difficulty.
Soon after their first baby was born, I went shopping at our neighborhood grocery. My grandson was snuggled in his baby carrier. When a clerk in the store saw us she said, "Oh I didn't know you baby-sat." I smiled as I touched the baby's soft brown cheek. Calmly looking into her face, I replied, "No, this is Cory, my grandson." Her shocked expression only filled my heart with thanksgiving.
When we sing the hymn, "Amazing Grace," it is more amazing when we know the prejudice and suffering behind it. The 18th century composer, John Newton, spent years in a degrading life as he hunted down and transported slaves from Africa to the American colonies. He did not care about the moans of the slaves in the lower portion of the ship, until his life was changed.
Once he surrendered to the power and love of Jesus, he was never the same again. He says that it was the amazing grace of God that gave him that new life. He quit the slave business and became one of the greatest preachers in England for the remaining 40 years of his life.
Today's leaders in racial reconciliation are an inspiration. One of them, John M. Perkins, has a ministry in Jackson, Miss. The forward in one of his books, Let Justice Roll Down, is written by former Senator Mark Hatfield. He describes Perkins as, "Nearly a martyr, surely a saint."
However in the 60's there was a day when Perkins lay in a hospital bed after several beatings by white men. The brutality of the blows caused severe cramping and he needed surgery. He explained his state of mind as "the pain in my heart was just as real, just as raw, as the pain in my stomach."
But he was a Christian. So he began to try to focus on the cruelty experienced by Jesus. There was no justification, no reason, except that some people felt superior and wanted to have power over this "lowly trouble maker."
And yet, from that cross of crucifixion Jesus spoke, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
John Perkins began to change. He writes: "Because of Christ, God Himself met me that day and healed my heart and mind with His love."
Today, in Jackson, Miss., the John M. Perkins Foundation For Reconciliation & Development is spreading the love of Jesus across racial and cultural differences. See their web site at www.jmpf.org. The staff oversees several ministries for all ages: children, youth, single mothers and seniors. Radiating from their chapel is the assurance that forgiveness, mercy, and God's healing power lead to abundant life.
This article originally appeared in the Cookeville, TN Herald-Citizen.
Lucy Neeley Adams has always loved music. She began telling the story of hymns on Christian radio WWGM in Nashville, TN, in the '80s. She then wrote a newspaper column titled "Song Stories" for five years. During that time Lucy's book, 52 Hymn Story Devotions, was published by Abingdon Press in Nashville. Each of the 52 stories contained in the book is written in a devotional format, with the words of the hymn concluding each devotion.
Lucy, dubbed "The hymn lady," can be heard on the first Thursday of each month when she discusses hymn stories during a telephone interview with Michelle Mendoza of "Living Christian." The program is aired on station KCIS in Seattle, WA.
Lucy lives at Lake Junaluska, NC, with her minister husband, Woody. They have four children and fourteen grandchildren. She may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her at 52hymns.com