By Lynn Jones
As we focus on the cross, I’ve been thinking about a couple of stories that E. V. Hill told. Hill served as pastor of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, from 1961 until his death in 2003. Dr. Hill spoke to a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Pittsburgh in 1983 that I attended. This is how he began his sermon, “It is a wonderful privilege to be able to speak tonight to the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention. When I think of your millions of members, your thousands of missionaries, your six great seminaries, your multi-million dollar annual budget, and your outstanding leaders, it is an honor to be around you—just because of who you think you are!” Touché! He had set us up perfectly. And then he had pricked the balloon of our pride. Just exactly who did we think we were?
That was one of the problems with the folks in the first century and it is the problem with people in the twenty-second century. We all think very highly of ourselves. We overestimate our sterling qualities and underestimate our sin. The cross of Christ is an eternal reminder of the depth of our sin and rebellion against God.
But I also remember another E. V. Hill story. When he was serving as pastor of his church in Los Angeles in the 1960’s and 1970’s, he took some strong stands in favor of racial equality and racial justice. Not everyone was pleased by his stands.
One night Dr. Hill’s phone rang, and the voice on the phone said, “We have heard what you have been saying. Some morning when you come out of your house, get into your car, and turn the key, a bomb is going to put an end to you!”
The message was a shock to Dr. Hill and his wife, and they discussed it until late in the night. The next morning when Dr. Hill woke up, his wife was not beside him. He got up, ran through the house to the garage, and the car was missing. As he panicked, the car slowly pulled into the garage, and his wife got out. He rushed to her and asked, “Where have you been?” She said, “I got to thinking about what that man said last night about putting a bomb under your car, and I thought it would be far better for them to take my life than to take yours.”
Dr. Hill said, “I put my arms around my wife and held her close to me for a long time. And ever since that morning, I have never again asked my wife, ‘Do you love me?’”
And ever since Jesus died on the cross, no one ever has to ask Him, “Do you love me?” The cross is His eternal, “Yes! I love you!”
Lynn Jones is a retired pastor who lives in Oxford. He does supply preaching for churches in his area and often serves as an interim pastor. Jones is also an author, has written two books and writes a weekly newspaper column. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.