When we were living and serving a church in Michigan, Keri and I felt our hearts stirring to adopt. After some clarity, we flew to Africa to meet our son, William, who is 12 yrs old now. If you’ve met him, you’ve seen the face of pure joy. His smile and his laugh are infectious.
When we accepted a call to lead a church in Tennessee, some friends of ours (actually living in the south) expressed concerns. “Are you worried about having a black son and living in the south?” My first reaction was shock, but my response was measured. “No. I’m not worried. I’m…aware (as aware as a 31 year old white guy could be).”
Fast forward 11 years. We’ve seen and heard rough stuff. If you don’t have any friends of color then you might not understand (which is part of the issue), but we’ve experienced the stares. William has too. We’ve heard the words; words that make my heart sink and my blood boil. WIlliam has too. But remember that smile I talked about earlier? Yeah…that smile has been cultivated by followers of Jesus. Every church we’ve served has poured into our kids. They’ve fostered a spirit of grace and love. Sure, I know not every person who has attended these churches believes the way I do. I’m not naive. I don’t think for a second that there isn’t ignorance or bigotry in our pews, but I can only speak from our experience. We have witnessed, in the three churches we’ve served, people gladly welcome the two chubby, brown skinned boys into their hearts. You know what that is? That’s a tangible gospel. That’s the stuff that drives out fear. It helps us remember that our hope is in Jesus. And I’m convinced that our struggles and issues all have to do with misplaced hope.
Every Sunday we have a fellowship and welcome time. You know, the thing that strikes fear in the introvert and joy in the extrovert! William is a greeter. He loves it. He walks around the church and shakes hands with people. From my view on the platform, I see the love. It’s pretty remarkable.
I know there are divisions in our world. I know that hatred still finds its way, but I thought if I could, just for a moment, let you take a peek into our world, it might fill your heart with hope. I choose love today. I choose the hope that sustains me. I hope you will, too.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14
Matt Hastings lives with his wife Keri and their five children in Tullahoma, Tennessee. He is the pastor of the Estill Springs Church of the Nazarene. [Editor’s Note: Matt has graciously allowed us to republish his weekly email devotionals on our site for our readers.]