- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2005

The following are excerpts from a sermon delivered yesterday by Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. at Hope Christian Church in Lanham:

Shots rang out in a courtroom in Atlanta on March 11, 2005. In just a few minutes, the world would know that a dangerous man, who allegedly murdered several people, was on the loose. The entire city had set up a police net to catch this man at all costs.

Surprisingly, he was not apprehended by the high-priced traps of the investigative community, but by the power of compassion and love.

To the world’s shock, a single mom had talked this man into giving up. Ashley Smith was not a preacher or church leader. She was just a woman on her personal journey with Christ. Her response to the would-be rapist or murderer demonstrates every person’s ability to change their world.

Confronting her negative situation with faith, she overcame dangerous facts with her own understanding of truth. Let’s analyze how she did this.

Ashley happened to be reading “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. She read the 33rd day of Warren’s book to her captor. The two scriptures for that day’s reading gave both Smith and [accused gunman Brian] Nichols a way out of a hopeless situation.

The first scripture declared that greatness is accessed by servanthood. “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.” Ashley Smith must have taken this scripture to heart.

As a servant, she spoke to the deep needs of the desperate man who had abducted her. She served to him the word of God like a friend would bring a cold cup of water to a man in the desert.

The next scripture was also important. It said that someone is judged by what they do. Brian Nichols must have taken this scripture to heart as well. The chapter offered hope that this man could find purpose from an otherwise-ruined life.

Ashley’s wise decision may have saved countless lives. She became the voice of reason, and in a strange way, a prophetic voice from God. Drawing strength from both the scriptures and the power of Christ, she acted courageously, deciding not to escape, but to influence a man that others called a monster.

At the end of the ordeal, she convinced Brian Nichols to go out in a blaze of glory. The glory with which her assailant left her house was because of the power of Christ. All Christians need to remember that recognition of the deity of Christ and repentance is all that it takes to turn a person’s life around.

At the heart of the Easter message is the Christian belief that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all humanity. The eternal penalty for each person’s sins was paid by the death of Christ. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

One of the thieves on the cross repented after he recognized the deity of Christ. Jesus then offered eternal life to that man sentenced to death by the world. This Easter, let us follow the example of Ashley Smith. Let’s not live our lives in a high-and-mighty fashion, isolated and independent. We must become humble, touchable and real. The personal struggles that you are facing today will lead to selfless service that gives you ministry moments that may transform two lives — yours and theirs.

This Easter, live as though He is risen to save the whole world, even the thief who may be just about to cross you.

He is risen. Amen.

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