Thank you for your recent visit to Atchison, Kansas. I hope you took a few moments during your visit to discover what a pleasant and charming place our small town is.
Anyway, I wanted to thank you for your visit because I found it quite timely. See, I’m pretty new to town, and you provided a fantastic opportunity to show solidarity with the other local clergy. In fact, it has proved to be an opportunity for clergy and other Christians in and around Atchison to come together as one and affirm the core of our Gospel faith: God is love and sent God’s Son Jesus to pave the way for God’s love to invade this world of hurt and hate.
Rarely in our schismatic world do Christians have such an opportunity to show the world that we are all children of God and members of the one universal church of Christ, that “There is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Where the media and fringe groups paint Christianity as a scattered, contradictory, and contrary bunch, you gave us the opportunity to disprove that stereotype, to rally together and speak with one voice. For that, I give you—and God—thanks.
I suppose that is part of the mystery of the redemptive power of God. Maybe it is like what is demonstrated in the story of Joseph: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Or maybe it has to do with that Great Reversal of the Kingdom of God, about which Jesus instructs us in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). I don’t understand how God does it, but I believe your visit to Atchison has strengthened the Christian community here. It just shows you how God can use us even when we are not aware of it.
I know you don’t think God gives a flying flip for this world or anyone in it, and you make it quite clear on your website that anyone who disagrees with you is going to hell; but I do believe God loves you and I pray that one day you will discover that love too. The Jesus of the Bible—who is the cornerstone of my faith—instructed his followers to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Whatever I or others may feel about your actions in Atchison and other places, I believe you are human beings made in the image of God. May we all be transformed into God’s likeness as well.
Next time you come to our town, stay for a service. Or join me for a cup of coffee in one of our fine cafes. I don’t believe I can change your mind, but I do believe in the infinite persistence and transforming ability of God’s love.
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
Pastor Michael L. Strickland
First Baptist Church of Atchison