When we met, I knew that we were going to be together for a long time, maybe for the rest of our lives. I knew this man brought truth and love to the table. I wish that I could say I have never doubted him since then. But there is an insidious seed of cultural mistrust that exists in the heart of every man. There are times when it slipped out, times when his thinking was inside a cultural envelope that I could not understand. There were times when we were both despairing in different ways, in our own lands, not being able to cross the river of understanding, being swept away by the incessant eddies that pull men in their paths of destiny. The currents run deep and pull hard when men are tired and can’t see that the One who gives strength is there to help pull against the currents.
I have hurt my friend more than once. Many times it’s in ignorance. I read, I read, and then I read more. I listen. I know from where he comes. I have been down my own paths of darkness and discrimination. I have felt the days when no one but God seemed to stand beside me, and even God was taking me down a treacherous road. I have felt the pain of losing everything. And so I speak as if I know. But I have not been down his path, I have not felt his pain. I have been too quick to believe that I understand. I am sorry.
My friend is a bastard. Not because he doesn’t have a loving mother and father. His are the best. But because he is a man without a home in his own country. He educated himself to live in a white man’s world, to think like white men think, to know what white men know about white society even better than most white men know it. For his trouble he became a marked man. He was destined to be tortured for daring to think that he could escape being black.
My friend is also an island among his own. For every effort that he made to show his own that the white world could be everybody’s world, that hard work and following the rules could bring the fruits of liberty, he was called a sellout and an Uncle Tom. In return, those close to him sold him out. For thirty pieces of silver.
I also know the truth. Although we call the world a melting pot and say that there are many gray things, the truth is that there is black and white. But black and white are not skin color, they are heart color. The grays of this world are all brighter shades of black. That darkness pervades everything. Into this world the Light came. There are the few who are on the side of the Light. Even they are insidiously dark. But the Light makes them white. Whiter than snow.
“For it is not what goes into a man’s mouth that makes him unclean, but what comes out that makes him unclean. . . For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him unclean.”
The legal system is: do and do, rule on rule. People honor the “law” with their lips, but there hearts are far from the law. Politicians love to make “laws”, so many of them that everyone is a law-breaker. But what about the real law? Lawyers love to rob their clients. Judges like to play God, even though they do worse things. The rich and influential like to hide behind their white picket fences and whitewashed walls and claim to be white of heart, as if the “law” that protects them is able to make their hearts white. Who are they fooling but themselves?
Then there is street justice. The law of the jungle. Do unto others before they can do unto you. “I ain’t never popped a man who didn’t ask for it.” If I don’t take advantage, then someone else will. I was only getting my fair share. You owe me! Our people never got a fair shake. But I don’t want to work for justice. I don’t want to strive for equality. I don’t want to believe that I can overcome. I don’t want to believe that every small thing in the right direction counts. I can go to a church and say there is a God, but I deny his power and trust in my own.
What can I say? I know the truth. But I am not validated to speak it. For I, too, am a bastard. I cannot live the quiet life of my education and upbringing. But I cannot pretend to a life without privilege. Though I try with all my might to learn to swim in the currents of the other side of the river, it will never come naturally for me. I will always look like a fish out of water. I will always have my intentions questioned. I will always have to overcome the insidious prejudice that says I cannot be trusted. Just like my big, beautiful friend.
I will tell a story. And he will tell a story. They will be different stories, but the same truth. Others who are not like us will also tell their stories. They will be different stories, but the same truth. The same truth binds together all true followers. The same truth eventually reveals whose hearts are truly white as snow. You can kill the messengers, but you cannot kill the message.
Many of you will say that you don’t understand. But you know that you do. Many of you will ask, “Is it I?” But you know what you are. “You who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.”
Jerusalem did not listen to the truth. What was the result? Africa abandoned the truth. What was the result? Russian and Europe have turned their backs on the truth. What is the result? Will America let the truth go? China is about to learn the truth. What will be the result? Do you want to know the truth because you follow it? Or do you want to know the truth by experiencing the awful reality that you let it go? Time for choices. My friend and I have made ours. And so we are in this together forever.