A number of years ago when I was the pastor of a small First Baptist Church in East Texas I faced a rather difficult small town crisis. A handful of local parents called for the local school board to ban a book being read in the elementary school. One of the members of my church sought to enlist me in this purification campaign.
I inquired about what was so disturbing about the book and I was informed that it had several suggestive sections in the book. I asked for a copy of the book so I could review the questionable material before I decided to get personally involved. A copy of the book ended up on my desk and over the next couple of evenings I scanned the book paying particular attention to the questionable sections.
As I read the book I came across a remarkable story in the book. Two of the key characters in the book were a brother and sister who were raised in a poor backwoods family. They spent most of their time out in the country and only on rare occasions did they venture into town.
One of their trips into town happened to be on Easter Sunday, and the children made their way to the local protestant church. After finding seats in the back they heard for the first time the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The preacher shared with them about how much God loved them and how through Jesus their sins could be forgiven.
After the service, as the family made their way home by wagon, the family questioned and critiqued their experiences at church. They criticized the preacher and all his shouting and how they did not like the music. The little boy interrupted the critique saying, “Do you believe the story was true…do you believe Jesus really died for us and rose again…do you believe the story was real?”
As I read those lines my imagination began to race. His questions took me back in time–to a time when I first heard the story, a time when my heart was first moved by the most amazing story ever told.
Now I faced an odd dilemma. As the local Baptist pastor should I work behind the scenes to ban this book with suggestive scenes? Should I work to ban a book with the gospel story hidden within the text?
Sadly I must admit I stayed on the sidelines, and the book was replaced by another acceptable book from the reading list. No one lost their job and the children were protected for a few moments from reading suggestive scenes that they witness on the television night in and night out.
My mind even to this day races back to the questions of the little boy. “Is the story about Jesus true? Is it real? Does God really love me?”
I pray we never forget the story is real. God does love you and me. Don’t be surprised if on Easter Sunday you might be sitting next to someone who has never heard the story of Jesus before. Whisper a little prayer for them this week. Pray that deep down inside they realize the story is true—Jesus really does love us.
“Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends”—Jesus