John Lewis decided on the kind of life he would live. Jacob had to make that decision; we all have to make that decision.
Genesis 32:22-31 “Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.”
Last Thursday, along many others, I watched the Homecoming (funeral) service for John Lewis, live-streamed from his home church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Speaker after speaker shared his or her remembrances.
As I listened, this line from Genesis kept coming back to me…. “Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” In the story in Genesis, it’s clear Jacob is wrestling with God, wrestling with his future. Wrestling, wrestling with tomorrow. Wrestling with good. Wrestling with evil.
John Lewis was a champion wrestler – wrestling with the racism of his beloved country. His wrestling began when he was a teen, with the brutal murder of Emmett Till, and it never stopped.
I’m struck by the lesson for all of us to stick with it, to keep going, to get up after we’re knocked down. George W. Bush said: “[John Lewis’s] lesson to all of us is that we must all keep ourselves open to hearing the call of love, the call of service, and the call to sacrifice for others.” Barack Obama added: “You only pass this way once; you have to give all you have.” Two former leaders of our world, two faithful Christians, testifying to the truth that life calls forth from us a constant readiness to wrestle with questions of right and wrong.
We don’t all have the opportunity to wrestle with the major problems of the twentieth century in a public way like John Lewis did. But we all have the opportunity to wrestle. Little issues, big ones, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is whether we turn towards, or turn away from. As Barack Obama said, “You only pass this way once…” Give it all you have.
If you didn’t see the service you can catch up with either the whole service, or the eulogies, here:
The whole service: https://livestream.com/historicebenezerbaptistchurch/events/9236743
President Obama’s eulogy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1pKoCq1bn0
President Bush’s eulogy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwvvt_mzV_Q
President Clinton’s eulogy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIubZ3IC4Gk