What a weekend we have had at Southside. Four of our families have been touched by the hand of death. We received word of three of these in a five-hour span. Two were expected, one was not surprising, but the fourth was a shock to everyone. Needless to say, people were hurting this weekend in our worship services, but you would never have known other than the few tears that were shed – some of those by me. But truly, yesterday was a day of rejoicing in our church. Rejoicing that four saints of God have gone to their eternal reward. Rejoicing to see one of those families in our church at worship even though their loved one had died. (I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but it is a pet peeve of mine when families stay out of church when a loved one dies. If ever there was a time when you need your church family, it is then. By the way, another of these families couldn’t attend due to the timing of the service.) But even in the midst of our sorrow, there was joy because we celebrated the ordinance of baptism with two adults and two youth. What a thrill it was to share in this monumental moment in their lives. God is truly blessing our church.
Then there was that moment before the service. On special occasions like this, our children stay in the worship service to experience the joys of the moment. When they do, they sit on the front pew, and I make it a point to go down the row and talk to every one of them – even if it means that I don’t get to greet many of our people before the service. Yesterday, it was great. Little Ian, one of our member’s grandson, was there. Before I could get over to them, he started calling me. “Brother Ben, Brother Ben, Brother Ben.” So I went over to Ian and shook his hand and said, “Good morning.” We chatted for just a minute, and he asked me, “What is your real name? Is it Brother or is it Ben?” Well, I explained to him, “My real name is Ben or Benjamin.” “So,” he asked, “why does everybody call you Brother?” “It’s just a title – like when you call someone Mister,” I explained. But I didn’t want to stop there. So I told him, “Ian, one of these days, you might accept Jesus as your Savior, and when you do, I will call you Brother Ian – just like I call your grandfather Brother Charlie.” And Ian smiled a great big smile. He was satisfied with my answer.
But I was thinking about that during the day yesterday as I watched the people of Southside minister to these hurting families. A good number of our people made the drive to Florence to be with the Witts for the funeral of their mother. An untold number braved the rain and stood in line to minister to Joyce and Lamar Smith and their LARGE family. Countless people have told me they were praying for me as I minister to these hurting people. And as I thought about all of this, I said to myself, “This is why we call each other Brother and Sister – because we are family.” The love of God makes us His sons and daughters, and we become brothers and sisters. It is an amazing sight to watch how this family takes care of each other. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples,” Jesus said, “if you have love one for another.”