By Dr. Hal Brady
A unique television program went on the air in 1968 and continued filming until the year 2001. The program was “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” This amazing TV program served as a role model not only for neighborhoods, but for businesses, corporations, communities, and even churches. The late Mr. Rogers was a source of endless comfort because he valued the supreme worth of all persons. He made the marginal people of the world feel valued and accepted and affirmed. For Mister Fred Rogers, a quiet Presbyterian minister, everyone fit in and was included.
In my opinion, Mr. Rogers was one of those who stood in the gap and represented hope and courage and comfort and direction. He stood in the gap and represented human decency and neighborliness in the midst of a world of suspicion and prejudice.
Another person who stood in the gap was the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As you know, there was a lengthy garbage strike in Memphis, Tenn., during the spring of 1968. Dr. King went to help negotiate a peaceful settlement and, ironically, while there, on April 4, he was assassinated. Though only 39 years old at the time of his death, he is claimed by history. So much was set in motion by Dr. King’s dream that it has constituted an unending reformation. And Dr. King did it with a philosophy of nonviolence.
God knows we need people who are willing to stand in the gap in our world today. We need people who are willing to stand in the gap and represent the power of good in the midst of evil. We need people who are willing to stand in the gap and represent nonviolence in a world bent on its own destruction. We need people who are willing to stand in the gap and represent the higher values of love and justice and forgiveness and reconciliation in a world of negativism, prejudice and unforgiveness.
In the light of this desperate need for people willing to stand in the gap, I want to refer you to the little known biblical character Ananias and his example.
First, Ananias was available!
What do we really know about Ananias? Not very much! Word has it that he might have been a sandal maker, but whatever his occupation was, he was a follower of the Way.
Obviously, Ananias had never met Saul, but he certainly knew of Saul's reputation as a persecutor of Christians. Admitting you were a Christian to Saul was like signing your own death warrant. A parallel today might be admitting you are an American to a terrorist in Iraq. But notice that in spite of the risk, Ananias answered God's call to go to Saul when no one else would dare to go.
In a sense, Ananias was the connecting link between Saul's Damascus Road experience and Saul/Paul's missionary journeys to Asia Minor, Greece and Rome. But the important thing for our discussion is that Ananias was available.
Second, Ananias had a noble attitude!
As the late Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick observed, “It's not so much what life brings to us in her hands, but what we bring to life in our spirits that makes the difference between people.”
Ananias could have had an attitude problem. So many do, you know. He could have rejected God's mission and refused to go to a Straight street. He could have let his preconception and prejudice and fears about the persecutor Saul dominate his thinking.
That seems to be one of the tragic errors we’re making in our culture today with people who are different. No room for change. No room for justice. No real room to overcome engrained prejudice and work together. People who are different are what they are. The tie that binds us all together in a common humanity before God is not nearly strong enough.
Abraham Maslow once said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer...you tend to treat everything as if it were a nail.” And he was talking about engrained prejudice.
As I noted earlier, what we need today are people who are willing to stand in the gap and see others and the issues that confront us through the eyes of God. And we take our cue from Ananias. He was available and had a noble attitude.
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries.