April 11, 2013

Letter: An even greater man

— Someone has said that “confession is good for the soul.” The Bible says, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  It is confession time. It is the sin of discrimination.  

The release of the major motion picture “42” opens with rave reviews. The story is about Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball. It was a defining moment in history when he broke the color barrier in 1947.

Eric Metaxas wrote about him in his book “Seven Men: And the Secret of their Greatness.”  “At one game in Cincinnati, when spectators in the stands were shouting racist comments at Robinson, his teammate Pee Wee Reese pointedly walked over to him and put his arm around him, as though to say to the bigots in the crowd ‘if you are against him, you’re against all of us.’ It was a signature moment, and a statue commemorating it stands today in Brooklyn’s minor league KeySpan Park.”

But there is something that is often omitted in the discussion about Robinson. He was a born-again Christian, as was Branch Rickey. He patterned himself after the words of Jesus in the “Sermon on the Mount.” “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:38-41)

How was Jackie Robinson able to endure all the cruelty and injustice for desegregating the game? How did he keep from fighting back? How could he hold his tongue against such bias and prejudice? It was his Christian faith. By not retaliating, he demonstrated a character that was like our Lord Jesus Christ. “He opened not his mouth …” “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)

Jackie Robinson was a great baseball player but he was even a greater man because of his faith and character.  

Ronald W. McKinney, pastor

Kinsey Drive Baptist Church