Last night we watched Remember the Titans, based on a true story about the newly integrated T.C. Williams high school football team in Alexandria, VA in 1971. These are two powerful scenes from the movie that demonstrate the incredible change in Gerry and Julius, a white and a black player, whose relationship changed from one full of hatred toward each other to a bond in which they considered each other their brother.
In the first scene, the two of them are unhappy roommates during their pre-season football camp and are forced to learn some facts about each other so that their coach will ease up on their 3-a-day workouts.
This conversation turned out to be transformative as Gerry (the team captain) took Julius' final words to heart: "Attitude reflects leadership." When he then exploded at his long-time friend Ray for not blocking for his black teammate, the atmosphere began to change. The ice melting between these two leaders, combined with the leadership of Coach Boone (their new black coach) and Coach Yoast (the white previous head coach), set the stage for most of the players overcoming their prejudices toward each other and learning how to play together as a real team.
Their transformation and resulting winning streak that season had a huge impact on the whole town. While celebrating their victory at regionals, Gerry was tragically struck by a car and the second scene shows Julius arriving at the hospital after he heard the news.
"I was afraid of you, Julius," Gerry confesses. "I only saw what I was afraid of. And now I know I was only hating my brother."
This movie is both inspiring and sobering to me, when I think about the racial tensions that still exist in our country today, 46 years later. How desperately we need to get to know people who are different from us so that we can see the "other" as our brother or sister, as Julius and Gerry were able to do.
Thomas' sermon this morning at Pulpit Rock went right along with this theme: "Being us is better than being right."
We want to be about "seeking common ground as we seek higher ground."
"If Jesus put Simon the Zealot, an insurrectionist who hated the Romans, on the same team with with Matthew the tax collector, a collaborator with the Romans, and made them roommates, I'm not sure why we can't set aside some differences for the common good."
We need to really see and really hear the people around us in order to experience the kind of self-sacrificing love Jesus intended for us.
And if we find that the people around us are too similar to us, then we need to go beyond some borders to find brothers and sisters who look different and have different beliefs than us.
As Thomas said, "We are known for our beliefs but remembered for our love."
Who might God be asking you to step out of your need to be right in order to love? Do you have enemies who could become your friends, if you let go both of your desire to be separate and your need to be right?