Why I am the way I am
My life changed forever a number of years ago when I was working in the ministry of an inner-city Atlanta church. This marvelous program of love and outreach was heading by a remarkable lady who loved everyone … especially those less fortunate and, especially those of ethnic backgrounds. She just loved and through the time I spent with her and “her people,” I also learned to love in a way more Christ-like than I ever learned in Sunday School.
Carrying young and old women to the grocery store and their children to doctors … making sure they had food and medicine ... clothing them, making sure some HIV patients had food and occasional company, playing stickball and basketball in the streets with the kids. Just trying to be a friend and hopefully at some point to share Jesus.
One afternoon, a little raggedy girl came up to me as I sat on the curb pouring glasses of kool-aid for them and asked me about God and, without thinking, I gave the typical rote Baptist answer. “Why, sweetie, God is like a loving father.” At that, the tears came and she began to tremble. I knew better than to try and hug her, so one of the ladies in my group hugged on her and asked her what was wrong. She finally answered, looking right at me, “My daddy beats my mother and me every night. Is that what you mean by love and is God going to hurt me?”
Well, my heart broke and since that day, I have believed so very strongly in social ministry over evangelistic ministry. Take care of the people and then, and only then, can you introduce God and Jesus and all that stuff. If they don’t see love in me, how can they possibly imagine a God that loves?
How about you? Have you found a place where you can serve?” Have you found out how to minister to people, before you start trying to make them believers in a God they can’t understand or identify with? Love ‘em, take care of ‘em ... then bring ‘em to Jesus.
This same loving Director recruited some ladies in the church to teach some of the community ladies how to sew and thereby save money on clothes for the family. The church provided sewing machines, patterns and fabric so none of the ladies had any costs involved. Bearing in mind that many of the ladies had no desire for church services, or preachers, or anything spiritual (they kinda accepted me because I drove the bus to pick them up and I installed a cow ‘moo’ horn that they enjoyed). They came from abusive homes, from not having enough food and clothes to provide, from illnesses they could not afford to have treated, and on and on. And I loved them all and still do. Their language could be quite colorful, but we didn’t say anything to them at first ... back to the loving and accepting who they are before we share the Jesus bit.
They thought we would start an extremely casual bible study and non-threatening worship around the sewing tables. If they liked a point the pastor, or other leader made ... or a joke someone told ... most churches would say ‘amen, brother!’ Not these fine ladies from the neighborhood. They would give a resounding, “Damn, Preacher! You’re alright!”
It caught me off guard the first time, but then I thought, well, Jesus probably had a few cursers in his crowds too. This in itself led me to love and be able to understand their lives much more so that we could know how to minister. If I could pray for one thing for you, it is to not sweat the small things with people. Just love on them as best you can, show them your love, don’t immediately start trying to change them, but, then, finally, bring them to Jesus.
And for tonight my friends, this has been another true story from the gospel according to Jimmy.
Jimmy Cochran is a resident of McDonough, a musician, a minister and the author of “Being God’s” and “Staying God’s,” both available at Amazon.com.