Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
I happened to be invited to speak at a men’s breakfast in Oxford last fall. There are about 30 men of all ages, races, and backgrounds who meet at the Beacon every Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. Former Chancellor Robert Khayat is part of that camaraderie and we had a great visit that day. When we parted, I invited him to be our cover at some point in 2015. He graciously accepted and gave me his email address and cell phone number. Little did I know last October that by assigning him to the August issue, I had chosen the most relevant and perfect example of someone who was well versed on topics that would be dominating the headlines these last weeks—race, the Confederate Flag, and the emotional rhetoric that creates more problems than it solves!
If you have yet to read his book, The Education of a Lifetime, you will get an abbreviated look here at his challenges, his vision, his character, and his incredible diplomacy. He was truly the right man at the right time. Only God could have brought all the pieces together.
My son, Lem, was a student at Ole Miss during the time the furor was raging over the flag. The boy bled red and blue from his cradle! When it came to a heritage with the University, he had it for generations back on his father’s side. He was one who saw what the chancellor was trying to do, and he appreciated it. I would dare say Robert Khayat’s influence was well worth the price of tuition! We were talking about this story the other day, and he said, “What was clear to me as a student was that Dr. Khayat was a strong leader with an incredible focus upon thoughtful, strategic forward-thinking when it came to not only how Ole Miss was perceived, but that also for the entire State of Mississippi. I really appreciated his courage and leadership in trying to bring people together for a greater good and more positive path.”
But on the race thing—how did we get back here? I thought we had moved past so much of it. There are some who insist racism has not improved at all since the 1960s and 1970s. I was a teenager in those years, and I can speak from experience. The busing edict of January 1970 closed my high school forever as all the public schools in my hometown were consolidated into one integrated district. My parents’ generation resented the heavy hand of the U.S. Government. In the end it was, for them, more about style than substance, more about the way it was done than the fact that it was done at all. They were distracted from seeing the greater issue which was how we treat others.
However, I have watched my generation work for racial reconciliation. As a former board member at Mission Mississippi, I have been a part of many hard conversations about race. There were plenty of times every one of us in the room did not agree on an issue or a candidate or a government policy, but I can sincerely say we disagreed in a way that never involved disrespect for each other. The significant component in those discussions was a common love for Jesus Christ. You simply can’t love Jesus and hate your Christian brother (1 John 4:20).
So, here we have a first for Mississippi Christian Living. The subject is race. The most radical thing about being a follower of Jesus is that He becomes the foundation of our heart, motives, and actions. He is indeed all in all, and there is no separate compartment of our lives that can be cordoned off and denied access to Him. If we can’t come at the problems in our culture with the mindset of honoring the God who made us in the way we resolve issues, then we are doomed to continue to have conflict and chaos. It is Satan who divides. It is God who unites. That, dear reader, is the truth.
Cover to cover—that’s the way I hope you read this one. And I would love it if you’d let me know what you think! I’m praying for our cities, our state, and our nation. I hope you are, too.