By Michael J. Brooks
Some skate-boarders discovered our church parking lot, and some young men our basketball goal, and this is fine. I’m glad we can share with them in these days of summer boredom.
I saw the hoop-shooters one Saturday when I was in the office and felt the need to offer a cup of water in Jesus’s name. “I’m about to close the building,” I said. “Do you guys want to use the water cooler before I go?” They thanked me but showed me they were self-contained with their own cooler of water. At least now we can be friends in the weeks ahead. Good kids.
This event reminded me of another so long ago. My best friend from high school and college served part-time at a church in the city. They, likewise, had groups of kids who came to “shoot hoops” in their parking lot. But these kids were of another race and leaders labeled them a nuisance, so the deacons met and decided to take down the backboard. My friend was so disillusioned that he didn’t remain in the position long after this.
Racism is in the news today, and it’s a “no-brainer” that people of God must deplore it. Many of us were taught to sing as children, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” Sometimes we describe God as “colorblind,” and though this is theologically impossible, it’s a good model for us mere mortals to follow.
He had the reputation as a tough law enforcement officer who gave no quarter. We talked once about his being on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on March 7, 1965. He told me he was choking on tear gas while angrily swinging his billy club trying to hurt somebody. I was shocked because the giant of a man who stood before me had the heart of a lamb. Senior ladies and small children loved him for his tenderness and servant’s heart. I never saw him being anything other than respectful to any person of another race. It’s hard to believe the unrestrained anger he’d had on that memorable day.
And then he told me what happened. “I found God,” he said. His experience was possibly akin to Paul’s on the Damascus Road, though my friend didn’t describe a bright light and a heavenly voice. His lifepath, however, was radically changed.
Years later I conducted his funeral. I told some stories about our friendship, including this one.
It would require more time and ink to discuss why some deacons in Birmingham harbored racism when a Dallas County cop left it behind. But it’s true the God of the Bible is yet in the business of changing hearts. -30-
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.