574) One in Christ, No Matter What Color

     

     Clarence Jordan (1912-1969) was a Baptist minister and the founder of the integrated Koinonia Farms in Georgia.  At a time in the 1950s, when racism and discrimination were especially rampant in the South, he went into the hills of South Carolina to conduct some revival meetings in a Baptist church.  When he came out on the platform to preach, he was amazed to discover that the congregation of several hundred people was thoroughly integrated.  White and black people were sitting together all over the place.

     Right after the service was over, Clarence got the old hillbilly preacher who pastored the church aside and asked him, “How did you get this way?”

     “What way?” answered the preacher.

     “Racially integrated!” answered Clarence.  “Did you get this way since the decision?”

     “What decision?” asked the old preacher.

     “The Supreme Court decision of 1954 that struck down segregation of the schools,” Clarence responded.

     “Supreme Court?” the preacher shot back.  “What’s the Supreme Court got to do with what we do in church?”

     Clarence Jordan was not about to drop the matter.  “Come on,” he said, “You know that to have a racially integrated congregation like this is really unusual down here in South Carolina.  Tell me how you got this way!”

     “Well,” answered the old preacher, with a sly little smile on his face, “this church was down to just a handful of people when the last preacher left, and they couldn’t get a new preacher no how.  So, after a few months, I told the deacons that, if they couldn’t get themselves a preacher, I’d be willing to preach for them, and they let me do it.”

     “The first Sunday I preached to the people, I preached on Galatians 3:28 and told them how everybody becomes one in Christ Jesus.  I told them that, with real Christians, nobody pays any attention to things like the color of people’s skin.  I preached that not to be one in Jesus was not to be Christian.”

     “After the service, the deacons called me into the back room and told me that they didn’t want to hear that kind of preaching no more!”

     “What did you do then?” asked Clarence.

     “I fired them deacons!” the old preacher shouted back.  “I mean, if deacons ain’t gonna ‘deac’ like the Bible says, they ought to be fired.”

     “How come they didn’t fire you?” asked Clarence.

     “They never hired me!” was the answer.  “Well, when I found out what bothered them people,” continued the old preacher, “I gave it to them every week.”

     “Did they put up with it?” inquired Clarence.

     “Not really,” answered the preacher.  “I preached that church down to four.  But after that, we began to pickup new members.  We wouldn’t let people into membership unless they were really Christians either.”

     “How did you know if people were really Christians?” asked Clarence.

     “That was easy,” said the preacher.  “Down here, from when we’re knee high to a grasshopper, we’re taught that there’s a difference between black folks and white folks.  But when people become Christians, all of that stuff is forgotten.  In Jesus, we overcome all of that racist evil, and we work hard at becoming one in Christ.”

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Galatians 3:26-28  —  So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 1:10  —  I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

2 Corinthians 5:16a  —  So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view…

Ephesians 4:32  —  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Colossians 3:15  —  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.

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O Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all differences of class are done away, take from us all pride, envy, and prejudice.  Unite us to one another by a common zeal for your cause, and enable us by your grace to offer to you the manifold fruits of our service.  Amen.

–Brooke Foss Westcott  (1825-1901), Bishop of Durham