For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. - Ephesians 2:14
We are surrounded by many influences in life, some good and some evil. Ultimately, we decide which will have the greatest effect on us.
Born in Augusta, I was an only child and lived with both parents until I was about 9 years old. At that time my dad left, and Mom raised me alone. But I have my memories of him. He was a big man, standing 6feet tall. He had no interest in God but was filled with hatred and prejudice toward others.
It was the turbulent 1960s. My dad was in the Ku Klux Klan, in time becoming a grand dragon. I vividly recall the white robes and hood that hung in his closet, as well as the red satin robes that signified his position in the Klan. He burned crosses around the Augusta area and had no problem hurting people if he thought it necessary.
One afternoon he ran into the house and told me to come with him. Riding down Druid Park Avenue, I saw fire trucks at Paine College and students standing in front of the gym. Dad said that he had called in a bomb threat and had placed a cross in front of the college to disrupt a chapel service. He was excited to see the confusion he had caused.
My dad's influence was one of hatred, prejudice and violence. He believed that said man could decide who is or isn't valuable.
My mother was born a dwarf and stood only 4 feet tall. She loved God and took me to church every time the doors opened. She knew the importance of the Bible and how it shaped values. She taught me to love God and people, even if they were different.
I was very sensitive to that because I was accustomed to people making fun of my mom and her size. Anytime we were in public, children and adults would point and laugh. My mom's influence was one of love, compassion and faith. Because of the values she instilled in me, I know what it is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I also know the importance of choosing to love others and working to try to remove barriers that divide us.
God loves every person, and they are of great value to him. Jesus died to destroy the wall of sin that divides us from a holy God. He came to remove the walls of division between races, families, and denominations.
Let love and godliness be the things that influence you. A 6-foot-tall man filled with hate was not as big as a 4-foot-tall lady filled with the love of God.
The Rev. Bryan Cockrell is pastor of New Hope Worship Center in Grovetown.