In 2015, at a restaurant and bar in Waco, Texas, a violent riot happened between rival motorcycle gangs. Nine people died that day and 18 people were injured. For many days after this, there was a tension in the air. Suddenly, social media and the news were swarming with stories leading many people to judgement and stereotyping.
We had suddenly forgotten the words from Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;”
Around that same time, I was preparing for my daughter’s high school graduation. Unbeknownst to me, my brother was sending her a graduation present – a shirt from the University she would attend. This would end up being much more than a present. It would be a reminder of the old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover” and would arrive with God’s perfect timing.
At the same time, a man living in the house we used to live in, dressed in all of his motorcycle riding apparel, was working on his Harley Davidson in his garage. He was anxiously awaiting a part for it, so he could meet up with his club and go riding. As he was working, UPS brought him a box. He opened it and quickly realized it was not for him. Inside the box was the very graduation gift my brother had sent.
Upon the discovery of a shirt in the box, this man quickly realized this must be a gift. He then tracked down my brother and called him, letting him know what had happened. My brother in turn called me.
I walked over to the house we used to live in, the house where this Harley Davidson man whom social media and the news had already condemned as a violent person just by association, stood in his garage working on his Harley. He was an older man, long hair in a braid down his back, with matching gray in his full beard and mustache. Next to him was the Chocolate Lab he had just rescued named Lucy.
This man, it turned out, was a Vietnam veteran and had been a Prisoner of War. He was so friendly and warm, a complete contradiction to how he and his fellow riders were being portrayed. This man was so friendly that I half expected him to invite me in for lemonade. I would have accepted too.
This experience convicted me for my own judgement. I was guilty for putting a label on this man based on his looks. I was grateful for that conviction. It’s easy to let the world tell us what we should think of people based on race, ethnicity, gender, and every stereotype in between.
I was changed that day all because of a gift – a gift I still treasure because of the message it brought with it. A message of love. Love for our neighbors.
For he has given us this command: whoever loves God must also demonstrate love to others. John 4:21 TPT
My prayer is for us to share peace, to shine the light of love in the face of all darkness. There will be darkness, but if we can glow with His love, we can give the hope which can overcome all the shadows.