The other day I stopped into the Ephesus Library and was met at the counter by the Branch Manager, and my friend, Donna.
From September 15 – October 15, its Hispanic Heritage Month in the US. Donna handed me a flier with links to websites about Hispanic American History and culture and lists of Latino authors, telling me that she had ordered books by Latino authors for the Ephesus Library and noticed my recent requests for bilingual books.
I was looking for reading material to help me practice my comprehension as Spanish is not my first language, and I was curious as to what was available in the catalog.
Donna’s positive voice towards the Latino population in the area is timely as comments by campaigning political figures here in the US are stirring up tensions about immigration reformation and US/Mexico border control. I thank God for the way His kindness is demonstrated in simple acts like those of my friend.
These past few days I find myself reflecting on the changes I’ve seen in Heard County since arriving with my family as a teenager in 1993.
There was a panel of Klu Klux Klan members from Heard County on The Jerry Springer Show the same year we moved there. My little sister Janet and I had watched that episode from our Big Mama’s television in LaGrange, Georgia two weeks before starting our new schools in Franklin.
I remember that my jaw had dropped open and that I had called my dad mid-episode, yelling about wanting to fly back home to California before he could even finish saying hello.
At that time in my life, the South and the KKK had seemed inseparable to me. And, being that I am the only one of my sisters, and immediate family, with the dark complexion of our Mexican-Yaqui heritage, the thought of the KKK in Heard County had not comforted me one bit.
No amount of pleas from me had changed my dad’s mind, however.
While I have never witnessed a Klan march on the square or seen the High Wizard dressed in his robes and walking around in Ephesus, I have heard the stories and felt the tensions and heard remnants of the bigotry they taught in the voices of younger generations—and I have forgiven them directly and indirectly.
I was not always so forgiving. I thank Jesus for forgiveness, for being forgiving like Him.
I was bitter towards Heard County for many years, bitter towards my dad for catapulting me into such culture shock at a poignant time in my adolescent life, and easily offended by prejudice.
But in the past five years, I have learned some deep truth from Jesus about not being offended and blessing instead of cursing and forgiving and not letting bitterness take root in my heart.
When we follow in His ways, we walk in His peace and bring His peace wherever we go. We are peacemakers in Christ, and having a contrast now—I choose His peace.
This is not to say that preaching the Good News will not incite persecution, offense, or riot. We can look at the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ and see such instances—Jesus even tells us that this is going to happen in His name.
But what I refer to specifically is the condition of our hearts. Our hearts are guarded by the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, and His peace enables us to respond to various circumstances and situations instead of reacting to them.
Cecil and Lisa Paxton Ministries dig deeper into experiencing hearts full of God’s peace in a three disk teaching series called, Freedom Series.
Over the years, the more I started to learn about Jesus and who I am in Him, the more I discovered that my identity is not in what other people say about me or think about me or how they act towards me—good or bad.
My identity is in Christ alone.
Bigotry is rooted in fear—but perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18; NASB). When I encounter bigotry now, whether the person is a believer or unbeliever, I am compelled by the love of God to pray.
I want to see that person free in Christ, and fearless!
One of the most beautiful aspects of being in Christ is that in His Spirit there is unity—we are members of HIS body (Ephesians 4; NASB). We are quite the colorful bunch too. We have come together in HIM from all over the world—from different genders, economic classes, ethnic backgrounds, cultures, languages, and ages.
Ephesians 4 and Romans 12 are really wonderful pictures of who we are as the body of Christ, exampling how we are to love and serve each other as we encourage each other to share the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ—glorying God.
In Christ, we are one Spirit and not to be divided. We are not to regard each other with “better than” attitudes and make comparisons of each other.
Not everyone who confesses that Jesus is Lord seems to have received this revelation, but I am an encourager like Jesus and believe that the Holy Spirit is working in our hearts, helping us to mature together.
Romans 15:1 (NASB) says that those who are strong are to bear the weaknesses of those with out strength and not just please ourselves. I have done this, and continue to, just as there are brothers and sisters in Christ who have done, and do, the same for me.
Grace and peace be multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:2, NASB).