When I was a young boy, my dad and I would go squirrel hunting every fall on my grandfather's farm in Stokes County. One trip in particular stands out in my memory. It was unseasonably hot and we had been out in the woods until late in the afternoon. Walking back to the car, we passed the house where my father had been raised. It was an old house--so old--the wood framing had turned black with age. The roof was rusted tin and the porches were falling down. In the side yard was an old well the family had used to draw their water.
This house had once served as the home of a family of 15 and it had seen better days. It had become so dilapidated in fact, that my grandparents had built another house further down the road and rented the old house to an elderly African-American couple affectionately known as Ernest and Aunt Jettie. As we walked by the house, Jettie came out into the side yard wearing an apron and a bonnet. She greeted us, invited us to rest on her porch and have a drink of water from the well.
Jettie lowered the bucket on a windlass and cranked it back up. It was full of clear, cold water. She took her dipper and offered us a drink. I declined. You see, growing up in the segregated South of the 50’s and 60’s, I had been taught not to drink after blacks. It didn't really matter how hot or thirsty I was; I wasn't going to drink after this old black woman. But to my great surprise, my dad did. I think he knew that I was thirsty, and I’m pretty sure he knew why I had declined her offer of a drink of water. So he turned and offered me the dipper a second time. I didn’t need a lot of coaxing at that point. I drank a long, cool swallow of some of the best tasting water I had ever had. For a brief moment, prejudice and bigotry almost won out. If my dad had not been there to lead me by his example, to offer me that drink of cool refreshing water, they would have.
I shared this story with our confirmation class on Sunday as we talked about Jesus’ encounter with another woman at a well. I wanted them to understand that the God who created us can take sinful men and women and recreate us into new people.
Once upon a time, I thought I knew how the world was supposed to work. I thought white folks and black folks weren't supposed to have anything to do with one another. I wouldn't drink after a black woman, even though I was dying of thirst. But then something happened. I had my own run-in with this Jesus. At first, what he had to say about loving people seemed foolish. But slowly his message began to sink in. Only when I realized "that we love because he first loved us (John 4:19) did I understand why I should love everybody, why I should do unto others as I would have them do unto me. Only when I realized the magnitude of God's love for me--that God so loved me that he gave his only begotten Son that if I believed on him, I might have eternal life --did I understand God wants me to show others the same kind of love that God has showed me.
To many--maybe even to you--the gospel sounds like utter foolishness. To lots of folks it makes no sense to talk about loving one another, much less loving your enemies. But those who have come to know Jesus--know a secret. We know that is the how the world really works.
~ Pastor Terry