Only Love Can Do That
By DANNY MINTON
The names Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, Chester Nimitz, Jimmy Doolittle, and Douglas MacArthur retain their place in military history years after these men served and passed away. The awards and honors exist in abundant numbers. Even those not students of military history will recognize some of these names. Over and over through the years following WWII, America would show appreciation for what these men had accomplished in bringing the country to freedom. Less known, but as highly honored and appreciated from WWI, was Alvin York, one of the most decorated men of that war. He would receive the highest award, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the war. His hometown showed its appreciation by giving Sergeant York a homestead.
However, like York, another young soldier fought for his country against Germany during WWI. His name was Freddie Stowers, known in the military as Corporal Stowers. Killed on September 28, 1918, at Ardeuil-et-Montfauxelles, France, Corporal Stowers was just 22 years old. Pinned down with his fellow soldiers, the Germans seemed to be slowly surrendering as the battalion moved forward. Unfortunately, it was a trap. The German machine guns fired, killing half of his fellow soldiers. Stowers took charge, leading the men to take the first machine gun nest. As they moved forward, Stowers was wounded but encouraged the men to move on. A second time a bullet entered his body. As he lay dying, he urged the men to keep going. Receiving courage from Stowers, the men continued forward, capturing the machine gun nest. Behind them, Stowers died from his injuries. His actions were much like those of Sergeant York, and paperwork entered the system for a medal. Perhaps on purpose, the request for a citation would be filed away, forgotten, only to collect dust. Corporal Freddie Stowers, a WWI hero, went unappreciated for what he had done that day in September 1918. Corporal Freddie Stowers was Black.
Over the past 10 to 12 years, the racial and bigotry tensions seem to have escalated across our country. My wife and I discussed how it feels at times like we have found ourselves back in the 1960s. It seems to have come to a peak over the past few years, but we’ve seen it coming much longer. I tell myself that I shouldn’t be surprised; it’s been this way for thousands of years. The shade of a person’s skin, religion, and heritage become ways to segregate and pass judgment and show prejudice. This attitude poses a problem in all directions and not just one group toward another. Lately, in our country, we have seen both racism and bigotry raise their ugly heads.
In our churches over the years, we proclaimed to our children that an individual’s skin color or nationality doesn’t matter. Jesus loves us all. “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black, and white they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” I know you probably sang the last sentence. It’s something we were taught so strongly in our youth.
So, what about the Church? Do we practice what we have told our children for years, what someone taught us so long ago? I remember years back at another congregation with which I worked, a group of university students was coming to town for a campaign, and the group requested that our congregation help find housing for the students over the weekend. We gladly accepted the request and began looking for places. I still remember a very nice Christian lady coming to me and asking, “Where will the black kids be staying?” Of course, they stayed with members, but that comment from a Christian lady continues to tell me that within the Church, underlying prejudice can quietly exist.
I attend a white, American congregation. I say that because we are at least 90 percent white Americans sitting in the pews. We do have other skin colors who worship with us, black, Hispanic, and Asian—all Americans like me, just a different shade of skin covering. But most of us are considered white. Does that make us racist? Does that make those who don’t come bigots? Of course not. People tend to worship where they feel most welcomed and comfortable, and that is the key!
The Church can be the starting point to bring a country together. Churches of all colors and nationalities must learn that we all are important to God and be more accepting of those who are different. People will come where they feel welcomed. They will come where they feel the warmth of others. We attend our worship times and sit with our friends. We watch as visitors walk in and take a seat. Maybe we should get up, introduce ourselves, and say, “come sit with us.” Then let them know they are welcome by introducing them to those around us. This action becomes even more needed when the person is “different” than the rest of our congregation.
A homeless man entered a crowded worship service one Sunday. Seeing no available seat, followed by the congregation’s eyes, he walked halfway down the middle aisle and sat on the floor. An elder arose from his seat and walked toward the man as the congregation waited in anticipation to see what would happen. The elder approached the man on the floor and placed his hand on his shoulder. Then, without a word, he sat down on the floor by the man and worshiped.
Jesus, a Middle Eastern Jew from Israel, the son of God, came to this earth to save the lost. The color of the skin never enters the question. He showed the same love and compassion for every person he met, making no distinction. The “Great Commission” sent his disciples out into all the world, no exceptions. Peter, a jew, expresses the feelings of Jesus in Acts 10 after God teaches him a lesson at the home of Cornelius, a gentile. “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. Acts 10:34-36 (NIV2011)
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Those are the words of Martin Luther King Jr. In those, he reflects the words of Jesus, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV2011)
Are we disciples of Jesus? Just asking.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ