June 13, 2007

Leather and Grace

2007 1516 page31 cape wore a leather do-rag—a simple piece of cloth that covered his head and tied at the back. His ponytail reached almost to his waist. Jeans and a T-shirt were his regular Sabbath attire. And Ronny loved the Lord Jesus Christ with all his soul.
It was a sunny October Sabbath afternoon. Our Sabbath school lesson that morning had been on how to keep the Sabbath holy. Church let out at the regular time, and I was looking forward to lunch and an afternoon nap. The week had been tough.
But the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me rest. I remembered what Ronny had said Friday night: “Nobody from church knows this, but I’ve invited all my biker friends to come to church tomorrow afternoon and listen to my testimony and a few songs.”
I finally got up and put on blue jeans and a black T-shirt. Slipping on my old denim jacket, I figured my attire was as close as I could get to blending in with the biker crowd. Driving toward the church I glanced at the clock on the dash. It read 3:15. I was 15 minutes late.
2007 1516 page31I began praying for my friend Ronny. I knew this was going to be tough for him. Some of these people knew him only from the days before he had become a Christian. Some of them had seen the dramatic changes in his life, but they didn’t know exactly what had happened to him.
They’d all witnessed Ronny’s strength and faith in a loving God, however, when he sang and spoke words of hope at their biker-buddy Jerry’s funeral a few months back. And they knew Ronny understood death’s pain because his own 14-year-old son had been killed in a three-wheeler accident not long before that.
Pulling into the parking lot, I smiled to myself. Those Harley-Davidsons and beat-up pickup trucks weren’t the usual vehicles found at our church on Sabbath. Then I realized they should be. Here we all were, doing whatever it is we do on Sabbath afternoons, and Ronny had more people in the pews than had attended church that morning.
As I slipped into the church I sat next to Ronny’s wife, Sherrie. Ronny was in the middle of sharing how the Lord had helped him to lay down his addiction to cigarettes. As he spoke, I could feel the Holy Spirit’s strong presence in our sanctuary.
Looking around, I observed the tattoos and chains, the leather and beards, and a pair of steel-toed boots propped up on one pew. But more than that, I noticed the interested expressions, the tears, and the longing in some of the bikers’ eyes.
Ronny sang song after song about the love of Christ. He interspersed his own story of how God had spoken to his heart and set him free from a life of addiction and sorrow. He passed around a real Roman nail that was similar to the one that pierced our Savior and sang of how it was his sins that put Jesus on that cross.
Later, as the bikers headed outside for a break, I overheard Ronny tell one young woman, “Jesus loves you very much.”
She replied, “Yeah, I guess I’ve got some growing up to do.”
I thought to myself, Yeah, we all do. I can learn something from this day. I can step out of my comfort zone and learn to love all kinds of people like Jesus does. Like Ronny does.
After the break the group filtered quietly back to their seats. As Ronny continued to share God’s love with his friends, I was amazed. It was 5:00, and no one showed signs of restlessness. It was as if they had come to church so thirsty they could not get enough.
As the notes of the final song faded, I prayed for the Lord to meet the needs of each person in the room; asking Him to make me the kind of Christian who, like Ronny, lets the brokenhearted know there is grace, forgiveness, mercy, and healing at the foot of the cross.
I also prayed that they might find it at my Seventh-day Adventist church. Whoever they are.
Juliet Erb writes from Mineola, Texas. She heads up her church’s Community Services and enjoys bird watching, traveling, and cooking.