Sunday, March 26, 2017

Riotous Reconciliation

IT WAS 1965 AND I WAS TEN. It was a typical summer night at my suburban Orange County home. Our family’s store, (think RiteAid) was about a 30 minute drive from our home, but socially it was decades behind, and that hot summer night the flames of the infamous Watts’ Riots were roaring too close for comfort. I remember the night that my dad got the call that rioters were marching in front of the store. I remember my dad and brother jumping in the truck and heading out to see what they could do to avert too much damage. It was a scary time for all.

From as early as I can remember I was taught that skin color and social ranking were not to be markers of a person’s worth. My dad lived-out that teaching everyday as he opened the doors of his store on Compton Ave. That night in August, 1965, my dad’s faith in the goodness of people, no matter their race or social status, would be put to the test.

Upon driving up to the store my dad and brother found a number of black men with guns at the ready. An even greater dismay occurred when my dad recognised that these were his regular customers, people he had befriended with free items when they were in need. Angered, he jumped from his truck, pistol in hand. As he approached the men they yelled to him, “Mr. Bob! Mr. Bob! Don’t you worry, nobody is going to touch your store. We’re here to protect it!” And protect it they did. The businesses on either side of our store were burned-out, but ours remained untouched.

It was in the midst of the riot that the true nature of people was released. Yes, some rose to cause damage and hurt, be they white or black, and yet others rose-up to show that the color of one’s skin was not to be the determining mark of one’s heart.

As followers of Jesus Christ we are in a riot zone. But we are not called to be rioters, fighting for what we think are our rights, but rather reconcilers, living for what is truth. In the Scriptures we read, “And God reconciled us to Himself through Christ Jesus and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ,  not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)  

Let us all then live out the reconciling reconciled life everyday in everyway.

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