A Friendly Stranger
Growing up in the sixties, my hometown had a strictly white population. It shocks me to this day when Mom reminds me that there was a city ordinance which stated that African Americans were only allowed to pass through our town—and only during daylight hours. It’s simply unbelievable to me that this happened in my lifetime.
I saw my first African American in that town when I was a toddler. I was at the grocery store with Mom, sitting in the cart’s basket. When a man with dark skin walked down our isle, I saw something I’d never seen before. I saw someone who looked very different from me. Since one of my favorite pastimes was making mud pies, I looked at this man and said one innocent word to Mom: “Dirty!”
The man heard me. He approached us and kindly told me, “I’m not dirty. This is the color of my skin. See?” he said as he attempted to rub the black off his arm. Maybe it was how he handled this situation that gave me an early start at a life that doesn’t know color, culture, or denominational differences.
A Wise Woman
From that first meeting, my mind fast-forwards to the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. As an elementary student, I’d been fairly sheltered from the news my parents watched and read about racism, protests, segregation, and riots. I do remember that when we heard Dr. King, Jr. had been killed, my parents were saddened—and I knew that a brave man had been killed just because his skin was a different color from mine. It seemed dreadfully unfair.
I’ve made many African American friends since those days. Recently, I was talking with Stephon, the father of one of our daughter’s classmates. He happens to be black. We’d never talked about the color difference between our families—I’ve never even thought about it.
As we talked about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, he told me, “My stepfather calmly marched in a rally when Dr. King, Jr. visited his town of Burlington, Alabama. And my grandmother was put in jail for peacefully boycotting a store that wouldn’t hire blacks. Worse than that, blacks had to enter the store through the back door, or were given their groceries while they waited outside.
“I was very aware of racism, but my Mother always helped me to believe in myself. If someone said I was no good or that as a black person I couldn’t do this or that, she’d say to me, ‘Stephon, you’re an heir to God’s throne. You’re a child of the King!’
“When speaking of Jesus’ great sacrifice for mankind, she would say, ‘The Lord bled for all of us, Stephon. His blood has no color.’”
This woman knew her Bible. Revelation 5:9 says of Jesus, “‘you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation’” (NIV).
A Timeless Song
If you grew up going to church, you probably learned the song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” The song says that He loves children of every color—whether they’re red, yellow, black, or white. All are precious in His sight.
Having a child of my own, I can relate to Dr. King’s dream when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”1<
Isn’t that what we all want? To be judged by the content of our character? We don’t want to be judged by the color of our skin, the make of car we drive, the brand of clothes we wear, or what occupation we have. We want to be judged by who we are on the inside—our hearts. Nothing else matters.
According to the Bible, this dream will be completely fulfilled in Heaven. When the Apostle John wrote about a vision he saw of the Second Coming, he didn’t see people of just one color or race standing before Jesus’ throne. Revelation 7:9 says: “I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there—all nations and tribes, all races and languages” (The Message Bible).
If all these various types of people are one day going to stand side-by-side before Jesus’ throne, worshiping the same Savior, when do we then start getting along? Do we work out our prejudices there, at that moment? No, it begins…now. It begins today. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies—or else? The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” 2
A King’s Child
Stephon believes that children are born with open minds and open hearts—and that prejudice is something learned by example. I agree. It’s imperative, then, that as parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, and pastors we all set an example of “color-blindness.” If Jesus views all His created beings as equal, how can we possibly do any less?
By the way, I called my parents tonight and asked them to remind me of what nationalities are in my own background. Although the world considers me a white American, I found out that I’m also French, Pennsylvania Dutch, Cherokee, and Scandinavian.<
So what does that make me? I guess it makes me just like everybody else—a child of the King.