One day last week I came in after getting a few things from the grocery store and looked to see what was on TV that I might like to watch while I cleaned out the fridge and put away the groceries, and there it was, BEN HUR. This movie was playing in a theater in Phoenix, Az. in the fall of 1960 and our family along with two of my uncles and their families, eleven of us in all, lined up to go see this new “Jesus” movie.
Little did I know, as a young teen, the impact this movie would have on the life of our family’s future. My parents had gone west to help a minister who had problems, enemies, heartaches and desperately needed help. Why West? Because my dad had family connections in churches in Phoenix and also in Los Angeles, Ca. so the hope was that someone would have a place of ministry for us. Although our final destination had been LA we stayed in Phoenix because there was a need for a minister at a beautiful church in that area. Phoenix held many good memories for my dad because that is where he built the “Little Mud Church in The Valley Of The Sun”, which today is a large church in the Church of God organization.
The families settled into the everyday business of building a new work and all of us children were enrolled in the local schools and we were trying to get accustomed to the awful, dry heat of that Arizona city. When we walked out of the theatre that night after seeing this epic movie I remember that as the eleven of us trooped down the sidewalk going back to our cars, there seemed to be a stirring among the adults and it hurt my young heart to see that there were tears. That night there was a meeting of the family heads and they made a decision, “We must go back to Atlanta and start over.”
I have greatly simplified this for the sake of space, but it was just about that quick. The point that was taken from this movie is a point that I stressed again yesterday and that is love! We must love the un-lovable, love the person that would just as soon see you suffer and die as not and we must love our enemies. Jesus gave us the Plumb line as He hung on the cross and uttered the phrase that set the high mark that we need to meet, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” In the movie, we watched as “Jesus” gave a cool drink of water and a large helping of hope to our hero Judah Ben Hur and just watching the depiction using an actor to portray our Lord gave us courage and a reminder that He really does know who and where we are, and if there is a job for us to do then we must be “about our Father’s business.”
That was 1960 and now we are in 2014, in that space of time many churches have come forth because of their efforts. There would be no way to number all who have accepted salvation, received the Holy Spirit into their lives, been healed, clothed and fed, visited when they were sick, received communion at the Lord’s table and fellowship with each other at picnic tables. I know that my elders had the Word from the Lord to come back to this town and face whatever needed to be faced in order to do God’s will, but it took having the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the iron will that only He can give, to forgive the people who had put us on the road in the first place.
My family had our own home, not a church parsonage, for the first time in my life and in my mother’s life, as she had been raised as the daughter of a preacher also and we were very happy! God led our family to the Marietta area where our church’s ministry still thrives.
So what do we say to these things? Romans 8:31 If God be for us who can be against us? In the final judgment, only what God knows about you will matter. If He knows that you have tried your best and that you have given forgiveness for all deeds done against you, then you will receive forgiveness for all deeds you have done, amen.