Posted by: glorifyhim1 | January 31, 2011

Choose Life

I recently read an article about four young black men who, on February 1, 1960, after making several small purchases, turned and took seats at the F.W. Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. The waitress told the men she couldn’t serve them; the manager asked them to leave; but the four young men would not leave. What began with these four young men led to many more students joining their efforts and eventually, five months later, the lunch counter at F.W. Woolworth’s was integrated.

This incident was one of many that occurred during the turbulent years of the Civil Rights Movement. As I read this story, I was haunted by the date – February 1, 1960. Where was I? What was I doing? I was seven years old at the time, probably in the second grade, and to be perfectly honest I probably didn’t even hear about the brave stand of these four young men. As a young child, I was aware of the civil rights movement. I witnessed separate water fountains and restrooms for blacks and whites, and I knew that there were injustices that our country needed to address. But in many ways my life seemed so far removed from the events of that day.

You see, although I grew up in the south, I was taught early that the only difference between me and a black child was our color. At church I learned a simple song about how Jesus loves everybody – “red and yellow, black and white; all are precious in His sight.” My Mama and Daddy made it clear to me that I wasn’t supposed to mistreat anyone, regardless of their color. Furthermore, my sister and I regularly rode our bikes up the road to a little country store operated by a dear black man. The store was in a neighborhood populated by predominately black people. We never felt different, or afraid – they were black and we were white. So many of the events that were happening around our country during the 1960’s were hard for me, as a young child, to understand. Why would you hate someone because of the color of their skin?

The school I attended was integrated when I was around 10 years old. The black school in town was closed and the kids were put on buses and sent to schools in white neighborhoods. Although many terrible events happened around the nation during this time, as far as I recall all went smoothly in my little school. The only bad memory I have of those events was the scared faces of some of the little black children as they walked into a strange school and met a sea of faces they did not know. How hard it must have been for them! I recall my Mama telling me that I should treat the black children just like I would my white friends. To be honest, I wouldn’t have considered doing otherwise.

As I look back on those years now, I cannot help but think how so much inhumanity and injustice could have been avoided if as a nation we had just turned to God’s word. The Bible makes it clear how God expects us to treat one another. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). God’s word is also clear that we are all the same in His eyes: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:9-11).

And isn’t the same true in our world today? We have come so far, yet we still battle hatred and inhumanity. And while it may seem overly simplistic to some, it could all be overcome if we would just turn back to God and obey His word. Before Moses’ death as the people of Israel prepared to enter their promised land, Moses challenged them to consider how they would live. “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16). If the people chose life, they would obey God’s word and discover His blessing. Furthermore, Moses reminded them that obedience was not beyond their reach. “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).

God shows us the way of life in His word. He tells us how to walk and what to do. The question for all of us is whether we will choose to do it. Sometimes I think my little corner of the world was perfect when I was a child in the 1960’s, but then I remember the scared black faces, the separate water fountains, and the need for a mother to remind her daughter how to treat a black child. No, it was far from perfect, but God is a God of grace and mercy who always stands ready to hear and forgive. The choice is up to each individual. Will you choose life?

 

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