I woke up this morning thinking about an old friend of mine. He and I met in the 4th grade here in Austin in 1979. He was the first person I ever befriended who was from another country. In fact, he and his family were refugees from Laos who lived up the street from me and my family. I became protective of my friend because other kids picked on him for his "rough" English and being Asian.
Even after he and his family moved to Wisconsin, my friend and I stayed in touch via letters. When he joined the U.S. Army and was stationed in San Antonio, Texas, we still stayed in touch via letters. He even visited me and my family a few times.
Around this time (jump ahead to the early 1990s), I moved to San Marcos, Texas, to attend Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University). I was already engaged to Angel and we were starting to plan our wedding.
In one of my letters to my friend, I told him the good news of who I was in love with and planning to marry. Now, considering that my friend was planning to become a Methodist minister in Wisconsin, I figured he would be happy for me. He always had an interest in the ministry because it was Christian missionaries who rescued him and his family and made it possible for them to come to America.
Anyway, I assumed he might be upset because Angel and I were "living in sin" but happy because we wouldn't be doing that anymore if we were married. I got that one completely wrong! He was upset that I was engaged to someone of a different race. In retrospect, I believe he was sensitive to the subject because he'd told me that one of his sisters had had a child with someone of another race; in his view, this action had disgraced his sister and, in a way, their whole family.
I never heard from my friend again. Honestly, that hurt me to the core. It's been 10 years and it still lingers, when I think about it.
My friend who was going into the ministry might have reconsidered his position if he'd known that God would use this woman of another race to reach me for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My wife got saved first. Her example of living for Christ and expressing His love was what broke through my barriers of pride and ignorance of the Bible. The Bible speaks of love for all nations and loving everyone, not just people like yourself. Despite what some say, the Bible never discouraged interracial marriage, only marrying those who worshipped other gods. Even in the Old Testament, many who were of other nations were permitted to enter the Jewish faith and become part of the Jewish nation. And in the New Testament, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ made it possible for the free gift of salvation to become available to all nations.
I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't gotten true salvation and been taught the Bible in truth and in love.
The only thing which mattered to me back then was that I loved this woman who happened to be of a different "race" and I wanted to marry her and start a family with her. For that, I risked (and sometimes lost) a lot. I lost friends, I nearly lost family relationships, I lost finishing college (at that time) but I gained the love of a lifetime. I gained someone who was willing to face the same risks. And once Christ came into our lives, we found the strength to continue on despite the adversities.
If only my friend had known this, I doubt he would have discarded our friendship so easily. And if he was truly Christian, then he had the charge from Christ Himself to love everyone.
I John 2: 7 - 11 (King James Version)
Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.
He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
So what does all this have to do with July 4th, with Independence Day? My friend came to America to escape tyranny and death in Laos. He became a naturalized citizen, even serving his (new) country in the U.S. Military. He lived the American dream. He even went on to further give of himself by trying to give back to this great God for sending missionaries to rescue him and his family. But when this same God allowed challenges to come into his life, to see if my friend would still love and accept his sister and his friend, my friend's actions said "That's too much! I can't do that."
I wish my friend well. I don't even know if he's still alive. But if he is and if by some odd twist of circumstances, he gets to read this and recognizes himself in it, I want him to know, I forgive him, I still love him and I welcome his friendship.
Independence Day is about having the faith to stand for what's right, even when all odds are against you...hoping and praying that a just and loving God can make a way. And in the case of early America and my own marriage, He did and still does.
Have a Happy July 4th!