What are the words you are speaking?: A response to the violence in the world

Today, I went to a movie alone. I went to a movie that may have quite honestly changed my life. I went alone because I didn’t want any distractions because I had heard this movie was quite powerful and incredible. The movie you may ask was “Free State of Jones”. Matthew McConaughey does a masterful job portraying Newton Knight. You can read more about the Newt Knight story here. But there was something that stood out to me in the movie over the violence that happened during the era of the civil war. It was not the fact that he stood up for his character and what he believed in even though that was really cool. Its the fact that Newt Knight made people feel important by his words.

About halfway through this movie, a kid came up to McConaughey’s character and said “Sir you made my brother a private (in your army)” and Knight responded “Is he younger or older than you?” The boy said “he’s younger”. Knight responded “Well if he’s a private, you can be a colonel”. The boy’s face lit up. It seemed like for once in his life that he was told that he was worth something. He was told that he mattered. He mattered to someone that was important to him.

It got me to thinking about a student in my youth ministry. When I met this kid last May they told me that they were just visiting. I didn’t make much of it but hey it was a visitor and that is cool. But they visited” again a couple weeks later. I began to ask around who is this kid? I was informed that the family was actually a big part of the church and then I wondered well why did he tell me that he was just visiting? So I sat down with my volunteers and just challenged them to make him feel loved and accepted. And come to find out there was a story of how the kid bit his brother at the beach one summer when they were really young and got the whole beach closed down because the lifeguards thought it was a shark. So we began to call the him the landshark. Every time that he walked in on Sundays we would put our fins up and welcome him and make him feel like he was the man. Raucous greetings like “Landshark in the building y’all!!!” And honestly who doesn’t love to be celebrated? But we made him feel apart of our group. He still goes to another youth group sometimes, that is coincidentally lead by one of my friends in the Memphis area. But this past weekend the kid went to Panama City Beach with us for a camp called Big Stuf.

I was so excited for him to go on this trip with us I could hardly sleep the night before. It was finally a time where I could connect one on one with him. And when we connected he BLEW me away. The dude is honestly incredible. He marches to the beat of his own drum, he is hilarious, and he is amazing. I didn’t want the trip to ever end because I got to see a different side of him (and I was at the beach). But all good trips have to end sometime, you know? But I think I was able to connect to him because we spoke life into him.

We made him feel important in a world that so often puts people down to lift others up. But we did not push anyone down to do this, we just made him feel recognized and important. How often do we make others feel important? Now you may not be able to make a kid a “colonel” in your army, but you can make people feel important by recognizing them and reaching out to them. You can make them feel valuable by giving them a compliment. Ephesians 4:29 speaks of this  “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” So let’s build people up and not tear them down. The rest of the world tears people down enough. The rest of the world stereotypes people and buries them in that stereotype. Why don’t we be people that roll away the stone that has been rolled in front of their “grave” and let them be free? Why don’t we make people feel important even if they don’t have a glamorous job? What if we treated garbage men and women like we treat NBA players? What if we treat the people that work at fast food restaurants like celebrities? The world may change. People may want to go to their jobs and work in the “low end” jobs because they feel appreciated. Every life matters. Black, yellow, red, blue, green, and white lives matter. Treat people like people and not anything less. If they are a human, they should be treated like a human. Make people feel important by celebrating them. Celebrate that they are living. Everyone deserves to be celebrated not just the people that society says to celebrate.

So stop treating people like they are less than you. Are they a human? If the answer is yes, treat them like a human. Love them, care for them, respect them, serve them, and appreciate them just because they are a human.

Be good and Rep your Hood

Thad Ernst

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