“Him?? Oh, he would never come to church or become a Christian!”
Back in the days when a cell phone described something found at the county jail, I worked with students. As I encouraged teenagers to share their faith with their friends, I’d get two responses:
- “All my friends are Christians.” As I drilled down to get them thinking of others they knew, they’d launch the second response:
- “Him?? Oh, he would never come to church or become a Christian!”
Admit it. You may never have said that out loud, but you’ve thought it. You know … that one guy in your neighborhood … that one woman you’re convinced is on a first-name basis with Satan.
Perhaps the neighbors of Johnny Lee Clary—a prominent leader of the KKK—thought that about him. What they didn’t expect was for him to walk into an African-American church and unload the gospel on them.
Clary learned about racial division and hate on the streets of Los Angeles. One group took an interest in him—the Klu Klux Klan—and because they were the first group to seem to care about him, he took an interest in them. And he rose in their ranks.
He returned to his home state, Oklahoma, and had the opportunity to appear on a radio talk show with a local African-American pastor. He was ready to take on this man. But instead on confronting a militant man, he met a man whose first words to him were, “I love you.” That started Clary’s undoing.
The pastor’s name was Wade Watts, and he would have other encounters with Clary. One of the best encounters was when Clary called Watts on the phone—and apologized.
The all-black congregation was—no surprise—skeptical. The same man who once tried to burn their building down was now speaking in it. Their hearts changed when, instead of trying to explain his conversion, Clary just began to preach Jesus. [Read a fuller account of Clary’s conversion and his relationship with Watts.]
No one is beyond the gospel or the tug of the Holy Spirit. People do not change. It’s not a matter of simply “turning over a new leaf;” it’s a total transformation that God works into a person’s life through love, grace, and forgiveness.
God transformed the life of a raging zealot named Saul. He did it in a full-fledged racist like Johnny Lee Clary. And He can do it in that one person on your list you can’t imagine following Jesus.
Why … God can even do it in you.
This post supports the study “Redeemed From an Unbelieving Past” in Bible Studies for Life.