John Lewis preached the gospel. He proclaimed good news to the poor and those punished and disadvantaged because of the color of their skin. He wasn’t Saint John but that’s not the point.
Some preach with words. But nothing speaks like our lives. We wave flags and placards, hoist banners, and affix bumper stickers. We also preach Our gospel truth by how we spend time, money, where we live and go to school.
So what is”The Gospel According to John”? Well, Congressman John Lewis died last Friday, at age eighty, my age. His friends and colleagues called him, “the conscience of Congress.” One close friend offered a worthy epitaph, “I never saw him do anything but the right thing.” But John Lewis said of himself,“I just tried to help out.” His friend, Congressman James Clyburn, said, “John lived the Gospel and wanted to make America GOOD again.”
Well, you did, John. You fought for every person to get to vote. Why? Because you believed ” every one counts,” every vote and each person. Years before you were in Congress, instead of wearing a bullet-proof vest, carrying a club when you marched, you covered yourself in the Gospel. You loved your enemies as their blows cracked your skull but never broke your Spirit. You marched across that bridge in Selma, then spent the rest of your life building bridges of love, and challenging folks to stand up and speak out against injustice.
Until you died, you encouraged non-violent protests and challenged the press to “be a headlight not a taillight and tell the truth.” To a graduating class you said,”Be hopeful, be optimistic. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
So, for an old white grandmother, what’s good trouble? And more troubling to me, if you were to poll my family, friends and neighbors what would they say is the gospel according to Jan? For sure, my epitaph will not include, “I never saw her do anything but the right thing.”
Still, we need models like John Lewis, to demonstrate that faith works and caring counts. They also remind us that true servant-leaders, “just try to help out.”
Someday, we’ll see Jesus, the heart of The Gospel. And wouldn’t we just love to hear from the One who knows our story from beginning to end, “Good job!”
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