A few years ago, my former pastor, Bishop L. N. Forbes asked an elderly, white male to stand up at our annual church conference. He said he was preaching at an all-white church and after his sermon, this same man came to him in tears. Bishop Forbes said the man told him that he watched how he showed love to everyone he came in contact with and how his preaching prompted him to accept Jesus as his Savior. Also, the man confessed that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK); and prior to his conversion, he hated black people. In a moment, the Holy Spirit stripped away the hate the former KKK member had for black people when Jesus’ love captured his heart.
After the Charlottesville rioting and deaths that transpired over the weekend, the former KKK’s testimony reminded me of the power of God’s love that can change what is deeply rooted in a person’s heart. Bishop T. D. Jakes calls it an awakening. He said, “You are covered with what you came from; but when God opens your eyes, you have an awakening.” In other words, an awakening occurs when God strips the scales off of your eyes and you gain focus. In the case of the Charlottesville rioters, their scales are racism and hate.
In the Bible, Saul had an awakening when God confronted him for persecuting Christians. As recorded in Acts 9:1-2, he was so consumed with the notion that Christians were a threat to Judaism. Therefore, he was driven to hate them without trying to understand them or their new religion. In fact, one of the key elements that usually drives a person to hate another person is that feel their status in life is threatened. Saul continued to persecute Christians until God stopped him on the Damascus Road.
Saul’s encounter with God changed his outlook towards Christians. A bright light shining from Heaven blinded Saul, he fell to the ground as God spoke to him in an audible voice. He said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Acts 9:4. In other words, God was telling Saul that if you try to hurt one of my children, you are fighting against me. After this encounter, Saul was convicted of his wrongdoings, he gave his heart to God and he was able to love those that he used to detest. The scales of hate fell from his eyes as his focus was now on love for all mankind.
Last weekend’s events that transpired in Charlottesville reminded me that a spirit of racism still hovers over the United States. However, God has the power to change a person’s heart, if they allow God’s love to come into their heart, and then they will be able to embrace and love others.