He graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth College. He was selected for Phi Beta Kappa. He won special honors in zoology, botany, history, and sociology. He was twice selected to be a Rufus Choate scholar. He was a candidate to be a commencement speaker at his graduation. The faculty did not choose him perhaps because of the embarrassment that Ernest Everett Just, the only black student in the class, had won most of the awards. So many people who have achieved great things do not receive the honors that are due them. Sometimes it’s due to prejudice. Sometimes it’s due to people achieving great things so quietly that people don’t realize the accomplishments until later in life. Sometimes it’s because that greatness comes from following God and pointing out where others aren’t following God.
We look at God’s prophets today and revere them as great men of God. We see their miracles, we read their pronouncements and wonder how it is that people couldn’t see that God was leading them. We admire their courage in standing up to power. The results weren’t always good. “They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:37-40)
The prophets throughout history were proclaiming the truth of God and envisioned a world where people followed God. They longed for a world where God and man worked together in a right relationship. They never saw that happen. The author of Hebrews reminds us that in Jesus Christ, this hope was fulfilled. Imagine the faith of these men, suffering rejection, persecution, and death at the hands of those who rejected God, and yet still proclaiming the justice and mercy of God; still proclaiming hope in the presence of God. That hope was not fulfilled until Jesus Christ came to earth, was crucified, and resurrected. This is what they looked for. This is what they proclaimed. This is what they longed to see. They never experienced a world where God’s justice and mercy flowed. But they never gave up hope in God.
Many of the African-American pioneers longed for a day when people would look at accomplishments and not worry about the color of their skin. Even today people belittle or ignore the advances made by African-Americans while enjoying the benefits of the work. If we long for a just society where God’s love and mercy reigns, we need to see people as God sees them. Each person I meet, is a person that God loves. They have sin in their lives, like I do. They are separated from God unless they know Jesus Christ. What the prophets longed for, we have experienced. This gives us the ability to do something the prophets of old could only dream of: be agents of reconciliation between God and man. There is no room for hate in God’s world. There is no room for discrimination. There’s not even any room for judging others: if you’re like me, you need to work on your own sin every day. What we have time for in dealing with others is showing God’s love and pointing them to Jesus Christ. We are called to be His ambassadors offering asylum to refugees who have been trapped in the world of sin. That is something better.
Oh Lord, I see a world that is caught up in sin. I see individual people who don’t know Your love. Let me be Your ambassador showing them something better that You have planned: mercy and Grace from You.