Pride and Respect: More Valuable Than Life?

Just in a matter of hours before writing this post, I read of a young man who was killed in an argument with a group of five other individuals. This occurred only days after the tragic and senseless killing of rapper; Nipsey Hussle. It’s the same old story repeated and multiplied across the country: Someone is involved in an argument or a personal dispute, but their pride and the need to be respected will not allow them to just walk away! There must be some type of retaliation! After all, they don’t want to be perceived as being ‘soft’ or being a ‘doormat.’ And so, they retaliate! It is at that point that the situation escalates because usually the force of the retaliation is much greater than the initial perceived wrong!

There was an Old Testament biblical ruling that stipulated an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth! The purpose of that law was to maintain an equal and even level of retaliation. In other words, it was designed to prevent much of what we are seeing today! Jesus would come along later and say: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39 ESV) But not only have we gotten to the point that it is seemingly impossible for most people today to ‘turn the other cheek,’ most people today cannot even abide by the old ‘eye for an eye’ standard! Instead of an eye for an eye, it seems that many have sunk to the standard of ‘a life for an eye! I can’t tell you the number of cases I have heard of people killed or shot, simply because the shooter ‘felt’ disrespected or wronged in some way! It seems as though, now-days; pride and respect are more important to some people than life itself! This attitude is utterly senseless and ridiculous! But what can we do?

When I was in school, I learned Math, Science, English, and some other subjects. But, the one thing I was not taught in school was conflict resolution! Whether it is taught in the schools or made a requirement before people can have children, we must find a way to re-instill the proper respect for the sanctity of human life within our culture and society! Too many of our young men and women are dying too soon! Too many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children are crying at the graves of the victims of senseless violence! It’s not the wall at the Mexican border! It’s not even health-care or any of the other political ‘hot-potatoes’ most politicians are talking about! The epidemic of violence and senseless death is the American national emergency!

But the politicians are too busy trying to get reelected! Many of the churches are too busy preaching prosperity and running after blessings! Dads are too busy trying to close the deal at the office or playing golf at the club! Moms are too busy, trying to be like Stella and get their grooves back! But in the words of the late Marvin Gaye; “There’s got to be a way, to get some unity here today! What’s going on?”

There is no use in waiting for the politicians to pass new laws! There is something all of us can do right now! Quit looking for others to start a new initiative! It has to start with you! It has to start with me! If we, that is, just you and I, resolve within ourselves that we are going to be part of the solution we seek; the resolution will not be far away! We must stop pointing the finger and blaming others and do what we can to be part of the solution and not part of the problem!

What can we do? The next time we are offended or wronged, count to ten before any type of response! Take a deep breath and ask questions: Is the response justified in light of the offense? In other words; ‘Am I about to shoot a fly with a shotgun?’ What will be the consequence of my response when the dust settles? In other words; If I shoot the fly with the shotgun, I may or may not kill the fly, but who’s going to fix the wall? Is my pride and need for respect causing me to write a check that I cannot afford to be cashed? Is it really worth it?

There is an old ancient proverb that says: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step!” Will you join me in taking a step today? Will you join me in doing whatever can be done to be a positive influence on those around us? It seems a bit overwhelming! The negativity and the violence seem enormous and gigantic! But it’s really no different than the journey of a thousand miles! The journey will only be completed and the senseless violence and death that has engulfed our culture will only subside to the light of life and sanity, one step and one person at a time!

Nipsey Hussle and MWS


Before I start, let me just say; I am not a fan of hip-hop or rap music! It is not that I am opposed to that music genre; I’m just not a fan. But I write this article in response to the recent murder of rap-artist; Nipsey Hussle. Now, since I am not a fan of that type of music, I did not even know who Nipsey Hussle was until Nipsey Hussle was not! But from what I have read since his untimely and tragic death, it would seem he represented a positive force in his community and our world, which is why I felt compelled to write this post.

Nipsey Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was shot multiple times outside his South Los Angeles apparel store, The Marathon Clothing, around 3:20 p.m. PDT Sunday; March 31, 2019 and was pronounced dead at the hospital. As I am writing this post, the police have named a suspect who has yet to be apprehended. Hussle, a former gang member, was involved in community building and investment in local businesses, public schools, and in young adults learning coding and other tech skills. He provided shoes for children in schools and heavily invested in his local community by owning a clothing store and other business ventures.

It is the classic story of a young Black man who, because of his environment and the cards he was dealt, made choices that caused him to turn to gangs, drugs and violence. However, he survived, got out and thrived! In acts of redemption, he gave back to his community and used his influence and money in an effort to pull others out and up. But his efforts were violently cut short by the bullets of an assassin, ironically, just a day before a meeting he had requested with the Los Angeles Police Commission on how to stop gang violence!

Now by now, you are wondering about MWS. MWS is an acronym for: Mad World Syndrome. We are suffering from extreme cases of madness (craziness; insanity) in our world today! It’s crazy for a person to be murdered who was doing all the positive things Hussle was doing to help people and stop murders! It’s crazy for people to be so insensitive, cold, and heartless toward other people. We are living in a time and culture now, wherein people cannot disagree and be civil in their disagreements. There once was a time, when people disagreed, they still maintained a level of mutual respect. But today, disagreeing parties feel compelled to dishonor, disrespect and dehumanize by name-calling and inflicting violence. We have even redefined the idea of tolerance. There once was a time when tolerance meant; I don’t agree with you, but I respect your viewpoint, therefore, I respect your right to be wrong! But today, tolerance has been redefined to suggest that if a person disagrees with another person, that person is hateful and mean! Such an idea is ludicrous and crazy! That’s a symptom of MWS (Mad World Syndrome)!

MWS is further illustrated in our country’s (USA) political world. The Congress and the President seemingly have forgotten about what is best for the country and are more focused on what is best for their particular political party and the special interest groups that financially support their campaigns. They propagate obvious lies with the belief that if they speak their lies often enough, loud enough, and forcefully enough, people will eventually accept their lies as truth! The crazy thing about it is; it works; that’s MWS!

I could go on and on, but the only way to contain MWS is by reaching one person at a time! There is no cure for the madness except a radical transformation within the human spirit and soul! We all must come to the realization that whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together! The killing of Nipsey Hussle reminds me of the craziness of a person shooting at another person on an airplane traveling at 30,000 feet in the air! Such an act could possibly hit the intended target, but the consequences do not justify the risk! For one thing, if the other person is indeed killed, the aggressors passion is satisfied, but his freedom is jeopardized because, in such a confined space, there is nowhere to run and hide! Secondly, the intended target might be missed and innocent lives (people who have nothing to do with the situation) could be lost! Thirdly, as my Daddy used to say; “A bullet don’t have no steering wheel!” Therefore a stray bullet could strike the hull of the plane, causing the cabin to depressurize and cause the plane to crash, killing all on board! Any way you look at it; such an attempt would be madness!

Now you might say that I just gave an extreme example, but similar scenarios are playing out everyday in our culture! The Nipsy Hussle incident is a prime example! Whether it was a gang-killing, or the result of a personal dispute; the results are the same. A young man, who had redeemed himself and was lifting up his fellowman is dead! The person who shot him will, be killed or lose their freedom in prison. Hussle lost his life! The assailant will lose his freedom or life! The families of both the victim and the assailant suffer loss! The community loses! The world loses! We all lose! That’s MWS!

The Armorbearer?

About six years ago, I posted a guest-post by H. B. Charles, Jr., entitled: Armorbearer is NOT a Biblical Church Office. In that article, Pastor Charles relates an encounter he had with a pastor’s chief armorbearer. He also stated his thoughts about the concept of armorbearers in the church. Well, I hadn’t given much additional thought to the subject until recently. Not long ago, I declined an invitation to teach in a seminar at a church. The reason I declined was because the seminar was about: “Equipping Armorbearers for Service in the Local Church.” Not long after that, I happened to overhear a conversation between two people where one proudly boasted of the fact that he had been his pastor’s armorbearer for over six years! And then, more recently, a guest pastor, visiting where I serve, was escorted by another gentlemen, whom I had previously known to be a deacon. As we sat chatting in the study, me with my naïve self, said to the brother; “Hey man, I didn’t know you were preaching now! When did this happen?” To which he replied, “Oh no! I’m not a preacher; I am the pastor’s armorbearer!”

I’m sorry! Maybe I’m just too old-school! But I can remember, up until about 20 years ago, there were NO ‘armorbearers’ in Black churches, especially Black Baptist churches! (There were no bishops in Black Baptist churches either, but that’s a discussion for another post!) Where did this ‘armorbearer’ concept come from? Well, after I declined to teach at the ‘armorbearer’s seminar,’ and after re-reading Dr. Charles’ post, I decided to take another more in-depth look at what the Bible says about the subject.

The ancient Hebrew armorbearer was a man (I would assume preferable young and strong, since he literally carried the king’s or general’s metal armor, along with his own sword and shield) who would accompany the one he served (a king, general, or superior army officer) into battle. The term; ‘armourbearer’ is found 18 times in the KJV; all in the context of a war battle and all in the Old Testament. Now, I can see where there may be applicable parallels. The preacher/pastor can, in a sense, be styled as a general, leading the forces (church) of the Lord into battle against sin and Satan, with the Bible being his sword. The Apostle Paul did say, in Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (KJV) He says in verse 17: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (KJV) Okay! I see the armor and I see the sword and the shield! But wait a minute! Paul was talking to every believer, not just the preacher! And Paul said for ‘us to put on’ the whole armor of God, he didn’t say anything about someone carrying it for us!

But even more than that, think about the character of the One we claim to follow. Paul writes in Philippians 2:5-7: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” (KJV) After a dispute among his disciples as to which one of them should be accounted the greatest, we read: “And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 ESV) It would seem to me that, in view of the words and character of Jesus, the idea of a pastor having a personal valet, butler, personal attendant, chauffer, Bible- handkerchief-carrier-sweat-wiper is totally contrary to the spirit of Jesus! I’m sorry, but I just can’t envision the Jesus I read about in the Gospel having an armorbearer!

I recognize that some might suggest the position of armorbearer as a means of teaching submission and honor, but it seems, as it is practiced by most I encounter, to be demeaning for the armorbearer and ego-inflating for the pastor/preacher! We would better serve the church and her Lord by teaching people, not to particularly serve the pastor, (Who by Jesus’ definition, is the servant of all! Many pastors these days got it twisted: The pastor is called to serve, not to be served!), but rather to serve the Lord by serving one another!

Now, I realize there are many who will not agree with my position (they will mostly be the ones who have armorbearers or who serve as armorbearers), but my conscience dictates I speak what I perceive to be biblical truth. My aim is not to offend or upset, but rather to encourage a focus on what’s really important! Although I declined the invitation to teach in the ‘armorbearer’s’ seminar, I would have gladly accepted an invitation to not only teach, but even to just participate in a discipleship training seminar! That’s more in line with what Jesus actually told us to do: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

A Bad Reaction To A Broken Promise

My 20th  pastoral anniversary at the New Hope Baptist Church in Covington, GA is coming up in about a month or so. Consequently, the wife and family are all excited and compelled me to go shopping for a some new clothes for the grand occasion. It was while my wife and I were doing some shopping that we encountered a situation that got me to thinking about how insensitive we have become as a society.

A customer came in, who had apparently made a purchase the day before. Apparently, the store didn’t have everything he wanted, because there was an item that was to be delivered the next day between 4 and 6 pm. Well, when the customer came in, apparently there had been some miscommunication with the store clerk the day before, because he was expecting to pick up his completed order. When he asked for his merchandise, the clerk told him that he had informed him the day before that the rest of his order would not be in until sometime between 4 and 6. At this point, the customer said that the clerk had not informed him of that time period. (At the time of this discussion, it was about 3:00 pm). At which point the clerk, of course, said that he had indeed told him. Well, about this time, the customer was getting a little upset because apparently, he had a flight to catch for a wedding out of town the next day and needed the items he purchased before he left for his flight.

Now, you may be asking of me at this point: “How do you know all of these details?” I know them because the customer was upset and loud and had informed the clerk (and everybody else in the store) that if he did not have his order by the time he had to leave for his flight; there would be trouble! Now, I don’t know how the clerk took it, but from the tone of voice in which the customer said it;  I took it as a personal threat! Granted, the customer had paid his money! Granted, the clerk (may or may not have) promised the merchandise would be in the store at a certain time. But, since when is it acceptable to verbally abuse someone in the manner in which the customer did? The clerk even went so far as to get the customer’s address with a promise to deliver the clothes personally to the customer’s home when they arrived at the store!

Now, I can understand the customer’s frustration, but I think his reaction was unwarranted! First of all, he brought this pressure upon himself because he should not have waited so close to the date of his departure before he made his purchase-order! Secondly, If the clerk had indeed told him the clothes would be back between 4 and 6, then why was he raising such a fuss at 3:00 pm? And even if the clerk did give him a specific time, the merchandise was being delivered by a courier, who had to navigate through Atlanta traffic! Only God would know exactly when the merchandise would actually make it to the store!

My point is this: Just because someone has paid for a service, that doesn’t give them the right to use verbal abuse because of a perceived failure of promise! This scenario is just a typical example of where we are as a society! People are so stressed-out that any little inconvenience sets them off! But there was one good thing that came out of this situation! My mother used to say; “You can draw more flies with honey than with vinegar!” My wife must have also known that saying because she went out of her way to be extra nice to the clerk! As a result, when we finished with our selection and the clerk was ringing us up; he gave us a thirty percent discount for our patience and understanding! As we were leaving the store, we thanked the clerk for the discount and in my mind, I thanked the irate customer as well! However, I really hope the clerk survives the situation in one piece because I need to pick up the rest of my order next week!

Sleep: The Practice of Death and Alternative Reality

Have you ever considered the fact that every time we go to sleep, we are in a sense, dead to the world? I mean, think about it: When we are asleep, we are not aware of anything that is happening around us, and life as we know it, goes on without us! When we are asleep, we do not participate in any of the activities or functions of people who are awake! When we are asleep, we are totally unaware of the world around us. So, in a sense, when we are asleep; we are dead!

However, during sleep, while we may be ‘dead to the world,’ we are by no means in a state of total unconsciousness! The medical community says we don’t go to sleep without dreaming. I read one report that said everyone is thought to dream 3 to 6 dreams each night with each dream lasting from 5 to 20 minutes! The report also said that about 95 percent of the dreams are forgotten by the time a person gets out of bed and that dreaming can help a person learn and develop long-term memories.

Think about it! Not only are we dead to the world every time we go to sleep, but also, every time we go to sleep, we participate in and experience an alternate reality! Yes! We participate and experience! The report said; we don’t remember 95 percent of our dreams, but the 5 percent we do remember often have a lingering effect upon us after we wake up! Have you ever had a dream that you were falling and you woke up in a cold sweat; screaming and clutching the sheets? If you were not alone, someone probably assured you that everything was all right and that you should go back to sleep because it was ‘only a dream.’ But when you were experiencing it, it didn’t ‘feel’ like it was ‘only a dream’ to you! It wasn’t like you were in a movie theater or just watching television. No! You weren’t merely watching it; you were experiencing it! You were an active participant! You had stake in how things turned out; so much so that your body reacted in the same way it would if you actually had that experience during your conscious waking hours!

Now, I don’t know about you, but in the dreams I remember, I was always able to do things I could not possibly do in my waking conscious state. For instance, in one particular dream, I was able to move from one location to another in a matter of seconds by just thinking! I was able to fly and do other things that were physically impossible to do in my conscious state. The weird thing about it was that in my dreams, I didn’t think of those things as impossibilities, they were normal, because in my dreams, I was actually doing them!

Now before you brand me as a heretic or as being unstable, I’m qualifying what I’m about to say as just musing. But what if the lyrics of the song: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” are more true than we realize? What if this life, as we consciously experience it for 70 years or so, is merely ‘but a dream?’ What if, when we close our eyes for the final time and experience physical death, at that point ,we wake up to real life and discover this life was but a dream? Only time will tell, because those who have actually experience it don’t come back to tell; it’s a one-way journey! But in the meantime, every night and every time we go to sleep; we are practicing death and experiencing alternative realities.