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One person at a time

When all the social and relationship issues of our nation came to a head in the summer of 2020, citizens in our nation and members of our synod had mixed emotions about the events and how to address the racial tensions.

I cannot be the spokesman for all the Blacks of society. Nor am I the spokesman for the Black members in WELS. I am simply an individual who is blessed by my Creator to be Black with many life experiences relating to others with differences in socioeconomics, ethnicity, and philosophies. I have learned that some issues are best handled one person at a time.

The civil authorities can mandate and legislate laws for getting along, making everyone equal, but unless the heart is changed to see what Christ has done for all people, it will be a never-ending battle. I know our Savior, Jesus, shed his blood for all, no matter what the ethnicity or socioeconomic condition. He adopted us as his children and promised us a share in the wealth of all the riches of heaven.

The apostle Paul makes the point clearly: “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” (Galatians 3:26-28).

Our Savior, Jesus, shed his blood for all, no matter what the ethnicity or socioeconomic condition.

Thinking like the apostle Paul, I put this love into practice with a White/Caucasian neighbor (we will call him John) who proudly flies his Confederate flag. I had an encounter with him one night while I was doing some painting before my family and I moved into our home. With his shirt off and a Budweiser in hand, John made it clear that he did not want us, Blacks, coming in and messing up the neighborhood. I told him that I was the new pastor at the church and that we were looking for good neighbors too. I said I hoped we could be good next-door neighbors to each other. He departed after that exchange.

We moved in, and I consistently showed him patience and the love of Christ over the years. I greeted him as a neighbor each time I saw him or his wife. There was no response the first few months. My wife and I planted a garden and had plenty of items to share, so I offered some to John, but was turned down.

I had not seen his wife in a while and asked how she was doing. The fact that I had noticed and asked about his wife took him by surprise. A block of the wall was removed. We began to talk about items on our property line that neither one of us was too keen about. Another block removed. We had begun to learn about each other.

A few years ago, he came over and helped me put a screen door on our home. He was having gravel put on the side of his house for another spot to park and asked if I wanted some. He paid most of the cost, and I paid just a fraction. John has offered the use of any of his tools or his help at any time.

What a good neighbor!

What changed? He still flies his flag, and I am still Black. What changed? He saw a Christian in action. He came to know me as a person who desires the same things he does and who shows him the love of Christ. No mandates. No legislation. Just Christian love, one person at a time.

Author: Snowden Sims
Volume 108, Number 1
Issue: January 2021

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  • Snowden Gene Sims

    Pastor Sims is a 1980 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran High School, a 1985 graduate of Northwestern College, and a 1989 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. He presently serves as an associate pastor at St. Paul's, Columbus, Ohio. He also serves as the Michigan District President. He is married to Melinda who is an instructor at The Ohio State University. They have a daughter, Erika, who resides in West Allis, Wisconsin. In his spare time Pastor Sims enjoys fishing, hunting, working out, gardening, playing guitar, and listening to jazz.

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