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Christmas yesterday and today

Rather than a meal of duck, Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan is having a meal of crow this Christmas season. His incendiary comments about homosexuals and Black people ignited a firestorm that led to his suspension from the show. Just as interesting has been the establishment of a "Support Phil" camp and on the other end of the spectrum the "Drum Phil out of Town" camp. Some, wisely, have chosen another camp – "What does the Bible say/require?" As offensive as his comments were to some it often takes situations like this to help separate truth from tantrum.

Among other things, Phil shared his opinions about race relations stating, “I never saw the mistreatment of any black person.” Phil said the Black people he knew were “happy” and went joyfully about their business – my paraphrase. Perhaps this is true, but for many Black people, the era of Phil's birth was a time social injustice, violence and marginalization. One thing is absolutely certain, Phil never experienced any of these things based on the color of his skin.

Circa 1940, when Phil was born, my maternal grandfather found himself at odds with the fickle southern justice system. One day while burning brush along an embankment, he was arrested for not having a permit, tried and sentenced to a year in jail. My grandmother, my mother, and her siblings were left without any means of financial support; things looked very bleak. God had a plan. Shortly after my grandfather arrived, the prison cook abruptly quit. The guards couldn't cook so they asked the inmates if any of them could. My grandfather said he could and began to preparing meals for the guards and others. The guards were so impressed with his cooking ability and honesty my grandfather's cell door was never locked. He freely moved throughout the prison and was never required to wear a prison uniform. God gave my grandfather favor with the guards; he was allowed to go home on the weekends – and return on Sunday or Monday. When Christmastime came, the guard took up a collection for presents and even drove him home!

My grandfather served his entire sentence. Strangely, no record of his arrest has ever been found. Much like Joseph in Potiphar's house, my grandfather served those who had imprisoned him. God blessed the one who served and those who were served. As Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”* I'd like to think my grandfather's faith and integrity brought some of the guards to faith in Christ.

So Phil, I'd like to thank you for your – er – meltdown. Perhaps your comments will serve to point others to Christ. God has a plan. We are called to be salt and light – seasoning the world and shining the light of hope so that others can see the Way. Whatever may divide us, God loves all His children! Jesus didn't die just for the 'special people', He died for the sins of the whole world – that means you too Phil! Christians are sinners saved by grace. We are not perfect, if we were, we wouldn't need Christ!

The core of this issue isn't freedom of speech it's about using the freedom we've been given in a responsible, respectful manner. Phil what it comes down to isn't about being right; it's about being righteous – loving as Christ loves. This is the message of Christmas: hope, love, peace and joy – not judgment!

Blessings to all.

*New International Version