Wineskins Archive

February 4, 2014

Jesus Man (Jul-Aug 1998)

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by Billy Lane
July – August, 1998

33Billy Lane submitted the following piece to Wineskins at my invitation. This unusual man knows life on the street among the poor and powerless. He is the gifted and passionate preaching minister for the Central Dallas Church of Christ, which hosts Central Dallas Ministries, a holistic center of compassion, empowerment and evangelism in the inner city of Dallas, Texas. As an African-American Billy daily experiences the dehumanizing impact of racism, yet because he is a thoroughly serious Christ follower, Billy joyfully demonstrates what it means to be a “Jesus man” in the midst of hatred and surrounded by the chaos of the inner city streets. I commend the following lines to the readers of Hope Network Newsletter. We expect this brief message to touch and convict you – and at the same time, ignite fresh hope. Read one. – Lynn Anderson, President, Hope Network Ministries, Dallas, Texas

What does it mean to be a man in this world? A scene from Tom Willard’s Buffalo Soldiers provides a vivid description of the “calling” of manhood. For it is indeed a “calling,” and a male decides whether or not he will answer.

The main character in the scene is retired Sergeant Major Augustus Sharps, 10th United States Cavalry, and his family. A tiny congregation sits huddled in a small black church in the South, listening to a guest minister lament the injustice and inequality dealt to the black man of America by his white counterpart.

Suddenly the door to the church burst open. “Help me! For God’s sake, help me!” pleaded a young black man stumbling through the door. Chain shackles bound his angles; his chest was bare and he wore only tattered trousers. As he collapsed in the aisle screams erupted and people struggled to their feet. Another voice shouted, “They’re coming! I can hear the dogs!” Through the open doorway all could hear the sound of baying dogs draw ominously closer.

Augustus slipped quickly from the pew and knelt before the tattered fugitive. He noted that the chains had gouged ugly gashes in the young man’s ankles. Blood flowed in dark red rivulets from a network of cuts on his back.

“Why, this man’s been horse-whipped,” Augustus breathed.

The barking dogs arrived at the doorstep followed by the pounding of hooves into the churchyard. Then an angry voice shouted from beyond the church door. “Get him on out here, Preacher! Get him on out here now, or we’ll burn the place to the ground.”

Augustus watched as the old preacher straightened his frock coat and stepped rosolutely to the doorway, and stood framed by the dancing light of flaming torches. Augustus thought the old minister looked like a man about to descend into Hell. “Pleas Cap’n. This is a house of God,” the preacher begged.

“You got a boy in there that escaped from the prison gange. We want him. Now!”

The voice came from a big man on the back of a huge horse.

Through the open door Augustus could see the man’s body, but not his face. The terrifying assailant wore a sack over his head; two holes cut in the sack revealed only his fiery eyes. A dozen more riders milled around their leader, all wearing the same macabre covering on their heads.

Augustus walked to the door and stood beside the preacher. Then Augustus’ big hands gently moved the preacher aside and he stepped past the old man, and strode out toward the mounted, hooded men. “Good evening, gentlemen. What’s the problem?” he asked, almost cheerily.

The mounted men snickered behind their masks; the horses snorted.

The big mad rode his horse around Augustus several times, then stopped, looking down, a gorch in one hand, a shotgun in the other.

“You’ve got an escaped convict in there. We want him.”

Augustus shook his head. “No, sir. The boy needs medical attention. I’ll take him to a doctor. Then I’ll send for the sheriff. This young man won’t cause any harm.”

The hooded man on the horse answered by firing his shotgun from close range, blowing Augustus’ leg out from under him and into a mass of mangled flesh and bone. As the story proceeds, the masked riders thundered their horses right into the church, roped the injured young object of their quest, and dragged him off into the night. Some terrified church members stampeded for the door. Others broke open windows and spilled out of the building, running pell-mell, screaming, into the darkness.

This scene, this one scene, sets into clear focus much of what it means to be a man in this world. When we speak of “being a man,” we often use words like responsibility, respect, sacrifice, commitment, integrity, patience, humility, sensitivity, courage, etc. Each one of these words accurately describes the actions of Augustus Sharps. Yet, there are two other terms that also characterize his actions as well: “justice” and “mercy.” What Augustus did that night definitely demonstrates what it can mean to stand for what is right and fair, while simultaneously being compassionate. This tension, this balance between justice and mercy, might well encompass all other terms we could choose to describe what it is to be a man.

Indeed our Lord Jesus Christ, on many occasions, faced this same tension. The Scriptures tell us in the Gospel of Joh, that on one occasion Jesus’ religious contemporaries dragged a woman before Jesus who they claimed to have caught in the very act of adultery.

“And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?’ And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. And straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ And she said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neighter do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more'” (John 8:3-11).

This brand of manhood modeled by the fictitious character named Augustus was not new. Long ago it was embodied in Jesus. As “Teacher” he knew the Law; He was well aware of what justice demanded in this situation (althought the case itself was precipitated by ill will and selfish motives). As Jesus, He sympathizes with our weaknesses, and He has been tempted in every way, as we are tempted. As someone caught in the middle, between a self-seeking group of leaders and a sinful woman, He confronted justice and exercised mercy.

Does this mean that te preacher in our opening scene and the other brothers who reacted to this terrifying mob differently from Augustus, were not real men? Not necessarily. What this scene does say eloquently however, is that manhood is not a club from which we receive a lifetime membership once we reach some specific objective in life (e.g. get a job, take a wife, have a child, support a family, receive a promotion). Real “Jesus style” manhood is a calling to which we continue to respond wherever, and whenever. There will continue to be situations and circumstances which challenge us to be men. We are told in the Gospel of Luke, “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

Being a man results from a life-long process of conscious choices “to be” just that. Somewhere I heard it said, and it is worth remembereding, “I am a male by birth. I am a man by choice.”Wineskins Magazine

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