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"Preach the Gospel at All Times. Use Words if Necessary."

Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr.
Pastor, Hope Christian Church www.thehopeconnection.org
Chairman, High-Impact Leadership Coalition  

Shots rang out in a courtroom in Atlanta on March 11, 2005. In just a few minutes, the world would know that a dangerous man who allegedly murdered several people was on the loose. The entire city had set up a police net to catch this man at all costs. Surprisingly, he was not apprehended by the high-priced traps of the investigative community, but by the power of compassion and love.

To the world's shock, a single mom had talked this man into giving up. Ashley Smith was not a preacher or church leader. She was not a model Christian in stereotypical terms. She was just a woman on her personal journey with Christ. Her response to the would-be rapist or murderer demonstrates every person's ability to change their world. She chose to take courageous action instead of succumbing to fear and intimidation. Confronting her negative situation with faith, she overcame dangerous facts with her own understanding of truth. Let's analyze how she did this.

"Whoever Wants to Be Great Must Become a Servant"

Ashley happened to be reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Interestingly, she read the 33rd Day of Warren's book to her captor. The two Scriptures for that day's reading gave both Smith and Nichols a way out of a hopeless situation.

The first Scripture declared that greatness is accessed by servanthood. It reads as follows, "Whoever wants to be great must become a servant" (Mark 10:43 MSG). Ashley Smith must have taken this Scripture to heart. As a servant she spoke to the deep needs of the desperate man who had abducted her. She served to him the Word of God like a friend would bring a cold cup of water to a man in the desert.

The next Scripture was also important. It said that someone is judged by what they do (Mark 7:16 CEV). Brian Nichols must have taken this Scripture to heart as well. The chapter offered hope that this man could find purpose from an otherwise ruined life. Although both people had great choices before them, Ashley's wise decision may have saved countless lives.

She became the voice of reason and, in a strange way, a prophetic voice from God. Perhaps she spoke with conviction because she had looked at her own life. In her personal inventory she no doubt found reasons for anger, reasons to be discouraged, and reasons to give up on herself and others. Drawing strength from both the Scriptures and the power of Christ, she acted courageously, deciding not to escape, but to influence a man that others called a monster.

At the end of the ordeal, she convinced Brian Nichols to go out in a blaze of glory -- no not gunshots and anger. The glory with which her assailant left her house was because of the power of Christ. All Christians need to remember that recognition of the deity of Christ and repentance is all that it takes to turn a person's life around. At the heart of the Easter message is the Christian belief that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all humanity. The eternal penalty for each person's sins was paid by the death of Christ. The Scriptures say it this way, "Him who knew no sin to be sin for us" (II Corinthians 5:21 NKJV).

"Preach the Gospel at All Times. Use Words if Necessary."

One of the thieves on the cross repented after he recognized the deity of Christ. Jesus then offered eternal life to that man sentenced to death by the world. This Easter let us follow the example of Ashley Smith. Let's not live our lives in a high and mighty fashion, isolated and independent. We must become humble, touchable, and real. The personal struggles that you are facing today will lead to selfless service that gives you ministry moments that may transform two lives -- yours and theirs.

Martin Luther once said of Christians that we are all just beggars helping one another find bread. Just as significantly, St. Francis of Assisi is reputed to have said, "Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." This Easter, live as though He is risen to save the whole world -- even the thief who may be just about to cross you. He is risen! Amen!

Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr. is a national evangelical Christian leader and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church (www.thehopeconnection.org) just outside Washington, D.C. and the co-author of the book, High-Impact African-American Churches with George Barna. Bishop Jackson is also chairman of the new grassroots nonprofit organization, High-Impact Leadership Coalition, which is currently educating the nation regarding biblical, moral value issues in key urban areas across America through its Black Contract with America on Moral Values. Bishop Harry Jackson is a conservative and he was a vocal national advocate for the re-election of President George W. Bush. Bishop Harry Jackson will be coming to New York City on Wednesday, April 13th to The King's College, a Christian liberal arts college located in the Empire State Building, for the Summit on Family and Moral Value Issues in New York and America. A press conference will take place at 2:30 pm ET on April 13th after the summit. For more information, contact Mike Paul of MGP & Associates PR at 212-595-8500 or mpaul@mgppr.com.