One of my favorite movies is “The Blind Side.”
It tells the story of Michael Oher, a former professional football player playing the position of left tackle.
As a high school junior in Memphis, Oher was taken in by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy and excelled in football. He became a top football prospect in the state of Tennessee, which led to multiple scholarship offers from Division 1 schools and later an NFL team.
In the movie, it is the premise that the first duty of an offensive linemen in football is to protect the quarterback from a direct hit on his blind side, while he is maneuvering to advance the football.
The reference in the movie is to the horrific injury that Joe Theismann sustains in a 1985 game with the New York Giants.
During the game, Theismann, the star quarterback of the Washington Redskins, is tackled by a star linebacker for the Giants named Lawrence Taylor, and he breaks Theismann’s leg, ending his career.
As drivers of vehicle, we all know that most cars and trucks have blind spots.
They are places that when we look over our shoulders to make a lane change we cannot see the vehicle beside us.
My truck has little mirrors placed inside the main mirror to help with the blind spots for my truck.
They have come in handy a time or two when I would not have seen the vehicle next to me.
Needless to say, I have been honked at a few times in my driving career.
In life also it is easy for us to be blind sided.
Many felt blind sided by the contrast they experienced as they celebrated the 4th of July this year, and what is happening around our nation still today.
How can one talk about our freedom during the midst of racial upheaval? This is “The Land of the Free” or is it?
Sadly, there are a significant number of citizens of this great nation that are crying out.
From their perspective, that phrase isn’t true.
Many people of color are fearful about being out at night.
Many feel that it is not safe for a young blacks to be out on the streets at night.
My school system was not integrated until my sophomore year in high school.
Although it was fairly peaceful time for our school and community, I was among those many who witnessed a disparage of treatment.
When I played high school football in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, there were still restaurants that we could not eat at when we stopped after our games because they would not serve some of our team members because of the color of their skin.
I have attended worship services as a pastor in a community with my friends who were people of color and felt excluded when we were attending a white congregation.
I was always welcomed warmly by black congregations.
Most times, I was invited to sit on the chancel area with the other church leaders and even offer a word of hope.
I thought that was strange and promising because in the church I was pastoring at the time in Louisiana it would not have happened.
We can set aside our differences if we choose to do so.
I feel we can honor the memory, the resolve and the strength of our nation’s founders who were willing to fight for their freedom while holding other men and women as slaves.
It is a sign that we can move in the right direction.
I wonder if they had a blind side or if they were intentionally moving us toward a goal that hadn’t yet reached its time.
We have been blind sided, many of us, because we have lived as the privileged ones.
It is hard to be aware of those blind spots, until they are pointed out to us.
Jesus did that very thing.
Jesus was a Jew, not as privileged as the Romans, but the preferred status in Israel at that time.
Jesus taught a message that rose above his racial heritage.
Jesus treated everyone the same.
Jesus did not consider being privileged as something to seek or to take for granted.
Consider how Jesus treated those who had leprosy.
Lepers were not permitted to be part of “normal” society.
Jesus took note of them.
Jesus stopped and engaged them in conversation.
Jesus healed them.
These outcasts were not outcasts in Jesus’ eyes.
Consider how Jesus treated Samaritans
The Samaritans were a hated “race.”
Their racial background is not that different from others, but the Jews of that time and place saw a great difference and treated them as lower than trash. Jesus used them as major characters in a number of parables.
They were the heroes.
Once a group of 10 lepers were healed, only one (a Samaritan) returned to say thanks.
A woman Jesus met at a well brought the entire village out to hear him speak, and he spent days (at least) in that village teaching them.
The village was a Samaritan village. Jews went out of their way to avoid even walking through that “country.” Jews would step aside to avoid touching the shadow a Samaritan cast on the road.
As a nation, can we give thanks for those who fought and won our freedom? Can we resolve to join them in the fight to make all people recipients of that freedom?
Perhaps we will reconsider who it is that we treat like Samaritans in our midst.
Perhaps we will honor all those who have died to provide us with the country by working to make this truly the land of the free.
Rev. Frank Chlastak began work as senior minister of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Poplar Bluff on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015.
Editor’s Note: This is a regular series featuring area religious leaders writing about faith, family and community. To participate or suggest a church, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-785-1414.