But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)
In preparing us for ministry, my dad taught my siblings and me to be ready to sing, preach, or die at any given moment. Dad was a Baptist minister and took me with him as he traveled all over the country. I think his vision was to be the traveling, singing, preaching, God-loving, bible-preaching family always ready and willing to serve in ministry and in praise.
During my brief time of military service, we were trained to be ready for any given event at any given moment. Combat-ready was to sleep with my M-16 and ready to march forward into battle — even if women were not allowed on the front line during those days. Our training was the same as our male comrades’.
Today’s verse reminds me that there will be times when I am challenged about my belief in the power of God in my life. I must be ready to witness and testify about that power. I must be willing and ready to testify to the goodness of God in my life. Despite the negative karma surrounding being a witness for God, I must be ready to tell it.
I was working a booth for the church during a LGBTQ Rainbows Festival Pride event. A man wearing a sandwich board shouting “repent and be saved” was walking by. He clearly was not in favor of the event. As he was walking by, I challenged his authority to speak condemnation, so he stopped and challenged the church’s presence at a LGBTQ pride event. He asked me if I was saved. I could hear someone in the background say “BRACE, BRACE, BRACE” as I began to testify about who God is to me and what the Lord has done for me.
“Am I saved? Yes, I am. I confess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. He is the ruler of the universe and the captain of my life. He is my Alpha and my Omega. Jesus is my bright and morning star. He pulled me out of the muck of the miry clay and set my feet on solid ground when I was lost in the wickedness of this world. It was Jesus that opened my eyes to see that the path that I was on was not good or pleasing in His sight. Jesus made a way for me when I couldn’t see my way clear.
“AM I SAVED? Yes, I am. I know that He died and rose again just for me and I’m glad about it. I’m not counting on the help of any human being to find my salvation. I’m not waiting on the approval of any church or religious ruler to mark me as saved. The day He died and rose again, Jesus marked me and made me whole. For by grace I am saved through faith lest anyone should boast. If it had not been for the Lord on my side — where would I be?
“AM I SAVED? YES, I AM, and I don’t need you or the likes of you or any other hater to prove that I am saved and have been healed with that precious balm of Gilead. While you perpetuate a message of hate under the false guise of God’s love, I will forever shout from the mountaintops that Jesus is Lord. Your message of condemnation is not wanted or needed in this place. You, sir, are a liar and a hypocrite. I know that I AM SAVED by the power of the blood of the precious Lamb of God, JESUS.”
Needless to say, the crowd listening had grown from three to about 100. My favorite police community relations resource officer had been quietly standing by as I said about all I had to say. When I finally took a breath, she asked me if I was done — I said “yes ma’am.” She advised the man that he should come with her for his own safety while I was still taking a moment to catch my breath.
There are political advocates for the LGBTQ community that say we are not to argue with the fundamentalists that come on a regular basis to bash us. They stand on their hilltops with their bibles in hand to deny LGBTQ folk entry into the kingdom — or at least their small portion of what they see as heaven. I stand at the ready to speak to these haters in a language they can understand. Those who rely on the law of the land are ill equipped to rescue the fundamentalists from the error of their ways.
I am fierce in my witness for the Lord, and I will not go quietly when asked about the source of my hope. Jesus is the center of my joy. He is my beacon in the darkest night. When I need shelter, He is there to cover me. When I need a shoulder, He is there to embrace me as I pour out my heart and release my fears. When I need a friend, Jesus is there to listen to me and encourage me along the way. I have resurrection possibilities as I stand at the ready to tell the world Jesus is the source of my hope and my salvation.
To all those who would think we are an easy or weak evangelical theology target, think again, we are ready!
Serving as one of four Co-Pastors for Casa de Cristo Church and Apostolic Center in Phoenix, Ariz., an inner-city ministry that is Spirit-led and Bible-fed, Pastor Charlotte Strayhorne is a graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been in active ministry for more than 35 years.
Known in the LGBTQ community for her activism and leadership for equality and justice for all, she is a recipient of the City of Phoenix’s Martin Luther King Living the Dream Award. Her love for the theatre earned her an ariZoni for Best Supporting Actress as Calpurnia in the Hale Center production of “To Kill A Mockingbird”.
With deep family roots in Cincinnati, she is an ardent fan of her Cincinnati home teams but her heart bleeds purple for the WNBA Phoenix Mercury. With travel destinations from Indiana to Italy, she has been consistent in sharing her exciting message of love for God.