- Associated Press - Thursday, July 14, 2016

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - The events that have happened nationwide over the past week, including the massacre of five Dallas police officers, angered Mike Yarbrough.

“It’s not so much just about the officers, but the divisiveness and what it’s doing to the people I work with, my friends, the people of this country,” said Yarbrough, a longtime Jefferson County sheriff’s lieutenant. “People were taking sides and it just bothered me greatly. I was in a bad place. I was an angry person.”

But an unexpected act by his pastor at McCalla’s Grace Life Baptist Church on Sunday lifted that darkness in a mighty way. The Rev. Joel Frederick called Yarbrough, Birmingham police Officer J. Logan and church member Adrian Robinson to the altar for a foot washing, a move that surprised the congregation and left not a dry eye in the house.

“I felt on Saturday like God was telling me to do that. It was just heavy,” Frederick told AL.com. “I told my wife to pray for me, that God was telling me to do something but I didn’t even tell her what it was.”

“God was speaking to me. I know it’s cliché, but it was ‘What would Jesus do?’” the pastor said. “We don’t live in a world of a lot of doing, just a lot of talking. God wanted to cut through the noise.”

Visibly emotional at Sunday’s 9 a.m. service, Frederick told the congregation he was hurting over the shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana, Dallas and the fallout that followed. “I’m just heartbroken. I’m heartbroken for where we as a people, as a nation, are,” he told the congregation. “I don’t have a lot to say about it. The Bible says when words are many, sin is present. The best thing I knew to do was to be like Jesus.”

Just prior to the Last Supper, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in a display of humility and servanthood. Frederick first called Yarbrough and Logan to the front, where he performed the foot washing and said this: “We don’t pray for them like we should. We don’t support them like we should. Thank you gentleman for what you do, striving to make our place safe for our families to live. We repent of not telling you often enough.”

Then he called Robinson, one of the church’s black members, to the altar. Again Frederick kneeled before Robinson, performed the foot washing and told him, “Adrian, I’m sorry for the injustices that continue in this country toward African Americans. I’m sorry that you have to be concerned about your children in ways that I don’t have to be concerned about my own. And I’m sorry I haven’t tried hard enough to understand and I want you to know I love you and you’re my brother. And you always will be.”

“Jesus loved with actions,” Frederick said in an interview. “I don’t know if anybody in the room had ever seen that in a church service. It was unique thing, real intimate.”

“I felt like I wanted to speak for a lot of the people in the church who wanted to repent that we have not been grateful enough for those who protect and serve, and repent to African Americans because we have not tried hard enough to really understand where they’re coming from and that their experience is not our experience. We need to do better, we want to love you better, and we want to serve you better than we have.”

The church put the video on its Facebook page Tuesday, and thousands have already watched the touching ceremony. “I’ve been told there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and it’s a room full of diversity,” Frederick said. “Just to see people of that kind of diversity on the same page reminded everyone that only Christ can do that.”

Yarbrough said the experience was humbling and healing. “It’s not about me and how I feel, it’s not about any one of us,” the lieutenant said. “It’s about Jesus. If everybody realized that, the world would be a whole lot better.”

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