You know, my wife, Gloria, tells people how she and Mama Mildred were drawn to the love of Jesus that was displayed in my life. (You can read her story on page 16.) But they never knew the old me. Before I met Jesus, my heart was filled with hatred, especially toward people of color.
When I was a kid, my father, then a member of the Ku Klux Klan, taught me to hate black people. He had learned to hate early on, too. We were both so ignorant regarding God’s love for all people that we did and said vile things.
But over time, God revealed His great love toward us, and we each came to our own place of repentance. And once God got hold of our hearts, He also showed us that His love was for all people, not just white people.
We asked God to forgive us of our pride, hate, and prejudice. And He did. He forgave our sins and made us new creations in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4–10; 2 Corinthians 5:17). It’s kind of ironic to me, how God used the people I hated to show me His love. I remember working at my uncle’s juice plant in Ft. Pierce, Florida. I was 17 and working alongside an older black man named George McNear.
One day, Mr. George overheard me asking my uncle and other family members to loan me a car for my date that evening. They all refused. Mr. George, however, let me use his brand- new car. I couldn’t believe it. I’d been taught my whole life to hate men like Mr. George. Yet, there he was, being so kind to me.
Another time, I got lye in my eye, and Mr. George was the first one there to help me. He could have let me suffer, but he chose to love the way Jesus does. I was intrigued.
God also used Scripture to reveal His unconditional love for me. I was facing 20 years to life for a car chase gone bad. While in the county stockade, I began to read the Bible. God used John 3:16 to open my eyes to the incredible sacrifice of love He’d made for me and all the world. He loved us so much He gave His only Son to die for our sin. My sin.
I read more Scriptures about God’s love, and each one I read chipped off another little piece of hatred in my hard heart, implanting instead a measure of His love. Reading the Bible also showed me a better way to live than the reckless sinful way I had chosen.
Convicted, I got down on my knees and gave my life to Jesus. Afterward, I promised to share His unfathomable love with others, even if from behind prison walls. I was so grateful that God had met me in my darkest hour and that He loved me so much.
I began an intense study of God’s Word. I meditated on it day and night and allowed it to change the way I thought.
I was released from jail after just eight-and-a-half months and didn’t have to serve prison time. With a grateful heart, I began to serve the Lord, striving to love others unconditionally. I asked God for His help, but I never expected Him to use a beautiful woman of color to teach me how to do that.
I was drawn to Gloria the moment I met her. She had the kindest heart and a smile that could light up the room. Eventually, we were married. Many people didn’t approve of our biracial marriage, and some still don’t. But God used our union and Gloria’s unconditional love to ultimately bring me and other family members—including my dad—out of racism.
Oh, the power of God’s love! It has no limits. It alone has the power to teach us to love and to forgive. Only His love can unite what years of hate have torn apart. Now more than ever, it’s what this world needs.