By Rev. Stephen Y. Brown, pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church and by Rev. C. Andrew Shull, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodruff
Our Woodruff community needs a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ for us to be able to truly live in unity. As a community we are unified at Friday night football games. What would it look like if we were unified everyday by someone greater than football – our Lord Jesus Christ. Our world teaches us to view each other with suspicion and hatred but there is a much better way to live. Jesus is showing us the way. Let us look together as some biblical truths.
1. Each person is created in the image of God and should be treated with dignity and respect. Human life is sacred.
“So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27
The key to coming together as a community is the love of Christ. Christ commanded us to love one another. The only way we can truly have love for one another is through the love of Jesus Christ. Christ’s love for us is not based on our level of education or what side of town we grew up on. Christ’s love for us is based on His will for us to live eternally with Him. Christ gave His live so that we can experience abundant life through Him.
2. God’s intention with setting different times and boundaries in which people live is to draw us to Himself.
“From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:26-27
From a worldly perspective, people take offense with each other because they are different, but God anointed us to be different so that we can each use our uniqueness to reach people for Himself. Each of us has been given the opportunity to make difference in this world through a godly sphere of influence. God knows us not only as we are but who we could be. He has given us gifts, talents, and influence that we can use for His glory. Failing to treat people with dignity and respect can hinder us from what God has called us to be and goes against the commands of Christ.
3. Hatred toward another person, abuse of power, misusing freedom and prosperity, failing to treat people with dignity and respect are all part of the same problem – sin.
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
Because our hearts are deceitful, people when they can get away with it, abuse their power for their own personal gain or ego – to the detriment of others. In our sinful world, the heart is taught hatred toward another person who may not look like you and to abuse power. We learn to take our freedom and prosperity for granted. We take sin lightly even though it separates us from God and keeps us from loving as He has called us to.
4. Jesus can save us from sin and free us to love each other.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Because of Christ’s love, He saved Paul who persecuted the Christians. For the sake of his own ego, Paul had hatred that festered in his heart toward the believers in Christ, the people of The Way, because they included people who were different. But when he met Christ, his attitude, his actions, his treatment of people who were not like him changed because Christ resided in his heart.
5. In Christ we can have unity, harmony, and a celebration of God’s diverse gifts.
“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 3:28
One day people of every culture will bring glory to God. Our diversity can glorify God today.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9
If we will live according to the love of God, our community will shine as a testimony to the power of God. His light will illuminate from one heart to another. If we practice these biblical truths in our Woodruff community the love of Christ will blossom and flourish. And people will be drawn to Christ.
Note from Rev. Brown and Rev. Schull
First Baptist Church in Woodruff was called Bethel Baptist Church from 1798 to 1911. For the first 90 years of the church’s history, white and black members worshipped together in separate sections of the sanctuaries. In 1877, in the wake of the changes brought about by the War Between the States, black members of the Bethel church who were interested in organizing their own church withdrew their membership and held their first meetings under a brush arbor on land given to them by A. B. Woodruff. The Bethel church gave its blessing to these meetings and assisted in erecting the new church’s first structure near the brush arbor site. The new church was called New Bethel Baptist Church.