Take Care of Each Other

Blind Faith (No. 33, 2017)
Weekly Devotional for August 17, 2017
Take Care of Each Other

A framed photo has remained on permanent display on a bookcase
in my study for the last 15 years. It was taken on a clear, cool southern
spring Sunday afternoon. Sherron and I had just attended worship at
Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. We were drawn there to hear
Jimmy Carter teach – along with around 500 other Sunday School visitors.
Well fewer than half of those guests remained for the worship service. After
the worship service many of the guests lined up to have their pictures taken
with the former president and his wife, Rosalyn. We were near the end of the
line, and we gladly waited amidst the hubbub of Secret Service protocol and
typical photograph posing to get our cherished snapshot.

A fortuitous mix of circumstances and contacts had resulted in
sharing close proximity with the Carters in the worship service. Saturday we
were visiting the headquarters of Habitat for Humanity in nearby Americus,
Georgia. Habitat happened to be having a yard sale to clear their inventory
of items bearing a logo that was being replaced. As we approached a resident
volunteer greeted us. We said that we were there for the Saturday tour of
the headquarters, and that our home church was involved in a Habitat build
at that time. The volunteer apparently assumed that we were officers of our
local Habitat chapter. She excused herself for a moment, returning with keys
to a Habitat vehicle. She escorted us through the Habitat Global Village
tour, then asked if we would like to visit the original village of
“partnership housing homes” and also the founding site of Habitat for
humanity Clarence Jordan’s Koinonia Farm. We eagerly accepted her generous
hospitality and she drove us on an insider’s view of the sites. At Koinonia
she even showed us the cabin that was Clarence Jordan’s study as he
translated the Cotton Patch Version of the New Testament, inviting me to sit
at his desk.

We had been advised to arrive early on Sunday to attend President Carter’s
Bible class. Sure enough, several tour busses were already in the church
parking lot when we got there. As we joined the long line into the church
building we heard numerous recitations of Secret service instructions. “You
will be scanned. Empty your pockets into the clear plastic bags provided. Do
not bring bags, cases, or anything more than a purse. No photographs..”
Nearer to the door another cautionary word was added, “The sanctuary will
not accommodate everyone. Once it is full all other people will be seated in
the Fellowship Hall to view the lesson by closed circuit television.” When
we were guided into the sanctuary we found ourselves to be the last people
seated in the sanctuary. We were in the last 2 seats on the back row! We
were talking about being thankful that we were at least in the main room
when an usher asked if we were Dr. and Mrs. Culpepper. Our identities
confirmed, the usher asked us to follow her. She took us to the front row,
explaining that her friend at Habitat had called and asked her to be on the
lookout for us. She went on to explain that Jimmy – she was a fellow church
member, and he didn’t let them call him “Mr. President, especially at church
– took his turn with other members mowing the church lawn and doing other
jobs. He had built the pulpit and communion table in his woodworking shop
and had turned the offering plates. She brought one over to show us the
initials “JC” he had carved on the bottom. When she confirmed that we would
be staying for the worship service she informed us that Jimmy and Rosalyn
usually sat on the row behind us, along with Millard and Linda Fuller, the
founders of Habitat. This was a modern-day reenactment of Jesus’ parable
(Luke 14:7-11) of the wedding guests jostling for the best seats, but the
one who took the lowest seat being ushered to the prime seat at the banquet!
The 39th President of the United States taught a marvelous gospel-filled
lesson from Romans 7. During the worship service we stood and were welcomed
to worship and shook hands with the Carters and the Fullers. Jimmy Carter
participated actively in worship, reading scripture aloud in unison with
other worshippers and singing hymns enthusiastically (although he can’t
carry a tune in a bucket!). Prior to the benediction the Carters were
ushered out of the sanctuary. The congregation was informed that they would
be available outside to have photographs taken with guests, and that anyone
wanting to have a photo taken should follow all instructions given by the
Secret Service officers.

Outside the scene was nicely photogenic, with flowering spring shrubs as a
backdrop. The Secret Service agents told everyone to present their cameras
to an officer who would take 2 photos per camera. Guests were not to take
any photos themselves. Further, we were not to initiate conversation with
the Carters, nor attempt to shake hands with them; this was no
meet-and-greet occasion. And the agents stressed that no one should separate
the Carters; stand on either side of them, and do not come between them. The
instructions were repeated clearly and enough times to be unambiguous.

Our turn for a photo finally came. As we approached the Carters – Sherron
acting as my sighted guide, as always – the Carters reached out to greet us.
They separated and steered Sherron to stand us between them. A Secret
Service agent stepped in, repositioned the Carters in the center, and guided
Sherron next to Rosalyn and me nest to the president. Another agent took the
photos. The president said to us as we walked away, “Take care of each
other.” We received a cherished, wise presidential blessing!

“Take care of each other” is a succinct paraphrase of sound biblical
counsel. It was a sweet, gracious personal word from a world leader who had
observed my blindness as we shared worship. He had also had a brief glimpse
to the love and mutual care between Sherron and me. His Christian faith was
exhibited with authenticity in his Sunday School teaching and participation
in worship of God. His keen awareness of the importance of sustaining deep
commitments and fellowship is evident from his consistent engagement in his
local church life and in his now-71-year marriage with Rosalyn. The biblical
text for his counsel – “Take care of each other” – could be Paul’s
benediction/blessing from Romans (the Bible book from which Jimmy Carter
taught that Sunday morning:

May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in
complete harmony with each other–each with the attitude of Christ Jesus
toward the other. {6} Then all of you can join together with one voice,
giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. {7} So
accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be
glorified. (Romans 15:5-7 NLT)

Think how amazingly different marriages . churches . government and politics
. the whole world would be if people heeded the former president’s – and
more importantly, the Bible’s – counsel! “Take care of each other.” Backed
by consistent Christian faith, that is a wise personal, presidential word to
live by. Imagine our photo with Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter. Consider their
demonstrable Christian faith. Ponder in your world: who needs your care
today – in Jesus’ name?

– J. Edward Culpepper

Dear Blind Faith Readers:

Blind Faith will retire as a weekly devotional with my 65th
birthday next month. I have enjoyed writing and sharing these promptings to
recognize God’s presence in events of each day, the enduring witness of
scripture, and other testimonies of faith. I have sensed that the time has
come for me to pursue other avenues of service, although the scope of such
opportunities is not fully evident to me yet. I am looking forward to God
guiding me to new endeavors as he has done in the past.

The last weekly posting of Blind Faith will be September 13. I
anticipate that Blind Faith devotionals may appear intermittently “as the
Spirit moves.” Weekly posts will not be the case. I deeply appreciate the
privilege you have given me of visiting via your e-mail In-box or FaceBook
news feed each week. Thank you for your responses, forwards, re-posts, and
faithful reading of Blind Faith. I will continue to pray that God will use
nearly 12 years of these writings spread across cyber-space to encourage and
build faith as he sees fit.

I borrow my concluding words from Peter’s reflections over his
ministry. This is what I have sought to do and pray that God will continue
to do through me:

do your best to add these things to your lives: to your faith, add goodness;
and to your goodness, add knowledge; {6} and to your knowledge, add
self-control; and to your self-control, add patience; and to your patience,
add service for God; {7} and to your service for God, add kindness for your
brothers and sisters in Christ; and to this kindness, add love. {8} If all
these things are in you and are growing, they will help you to be useful and
productive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.. {12} You know these
things, and you are very strong in the truth, but I will always help you
remember them. {13} I think it is right for me to help you remember .. {15}
I will try my best so that you may be able to remember these things even
after I am gone. (2 Peter 1:5-8, 12-13a, 15 NCV)

God’s blessings,
Ed Culpepper