SIX

On Saturday Russell and his friends drove out to Lake Wilkins where they met with students from the local high schools and many of their parents. Willie Mitchell of Mitchell’s Barbecue fame, suggested that Russell stand on the deck of his new Bentley Party Cruiser so everyone could see and hear him clearly.

Russell taught them many things using illustrations or comparisons set beside spiritual truths, so the people could understand Kingdom life more plainly.

“Living in the Kingdom of God is something like this. Let’s say the CEO of a large, international corporation mails an important, registered letter to everyone in the world. Before the CEO is finished sending out all the letters though, some are returned; rejected and unopened.       

“Other letters are signed for by the recipients, but the people are busy. They don’t have time to consider the letter fully, so after a day or two they throw the letter into the trash. 

“Other recipients accept the letters and open them eagerly. They are thrilled by the good news, but they have other mail to read as well. There are store advertisements, credit card applications, and invitations to vacation in exotic places. The message of the original letter is soon forgotten.

“And still other letters are signed for and received by enthusiastic people, who open them and considered the content carefully. The power of the message affects the recipients with such power that they copy the message and send it to thirty or sixty or even a hundred other people. In this way many lives are transformed.”

Russell concluded by saying, “The person who desires to understand what I’m saying, will comprehend the things of God.”

As soon as Russell was alone, his twelve best friends and a few other people began asking him about the illustrations.

Finishing his hamburger, Russell said, “You all have been entrusted with the mystery of the Kingdom of God—that is the secret counsels of God which are hidden from those who refuse to believe. For the people outside of our circle, everything becomes a confusing allegory.”  

“That seems kind of exclusive and unfair,” said Tom McLaughlin.

“Not really,” said Russell, tossing a finished Mountain Dew into a trashcan. “If a person listens to the words of God but is not able to understand them, than perhaps he’ll admit his unbelief and seek transformation. In this way his former rejection will be forgiven.”

Peter considered Russell’s words for a moment and said, “I believe in God, but I didn’t understand what you were saying about the CEO, the letter and the recipients.”

“Peter,” Russell said, alarmed. “If you don’t get what I mean in that story, then how will you understand any story I tell?”

“If you just explain this one to us, maybe we’ll be able to figure out the next one.”

Russell laughed. “Okay. The CEO of the corporation is God and He is continually sending his message into the world. There are four types of recipients.

”For whatever reason, the first type of recipient doesn’t even want the letter. The Enemy of God has done such a work of evil in their heart that they reject the message of God outright. 

“Then there are those who receive the message but fail to considerate it carefully. Its shallow hold in their life cannot withstand any opposition or testing. So they become indignant and resentful. As a result they trash the message.

“And then there are those people who receive and carefully consider the message of God, but are then distracted by the other messages of the world. They become introspective and dispirited. God’s message is drowned out by the multitude of voices, screaming for their attention.

“And finally there are those who receive the letter, read it, believe it, and accept it with joy. They then spread the message and impact the lives of many other people.”

Russell watched his friends mulling the illustration over in their minds. “God is not playing games with us in the way He reveals Himself. He is a floodlight shining into the hearts of people so they can understand who He is and who they are. Can you hide a floodlight?”      

”Keep talking,” said Jim Winslow. “I think I’m tracking with you.”

“God hides things from us temporarily so He can be the one who reveals them to us. There’s nothing hidden in us, that God won’t reveal, nor anything kept secret except in order to be made known. We must be continually listening to God if we are to perceive and comprehend anything about our lives. It's all about mindfulness toward God.”

“How do we listen to God?” Thad asked.

“We listen to voices 24/7. We listen to the voices of parents and teachers, friends and enemies, as well as the media and the Internet. People know how to listen, they just don’t know to whom they should be listening. Be careful what you are hearing. The measure of thought and study you give to the truth that you hear will be the measure of virtue and knowledge that comes back to you—and more besides will be given to those who hear only the truth. Because, to the one who listens and pursues truth, more will be given, but to the one who ignores truth, even what little truth they do possess will be taken from them by force.”

Peter Longley set an empty Coke can on a picnic table and smashed it with his fist.

His brother laughed. “Pumping iron with Billy Balkman is going to your head. You think you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger or something?”

Seizing the example, Russell told Peter to flex his biceps. “You see that?” he asked pointing to the bulging muscles. “The Kingdom of God is like a skinny kid who starts hitting the weights three times a week. Even when he is sleeping the muscle tissue grows and increases in size. The body produces the new tissue by itself—first a toning, then a ripple, then a massive bicep.”

Peter dropped his arms, blushing.

“But,” Russell continued, “when Peter’s physique is Arnold-like, he needs to use it to impact other people’s lives for God.”

In this way, with many such illustrations, Russell explained the Kingdom of God to the people of Wilkins, North Carolina. He did not tell them anything without an illustration, but privately, to his closest friends, he explained everything fully.

On that same day, when evening had come, he said to his friends, “Let’s drive over to the other side of town.”

Leaving the crowd of people at Lake Wilkins, they took him with them in Tom McLaughlin’s Chevy van. Some other cars followed them as well.

The small convoy of vehicles crossed the railroad tracks at the abandoned Amtrak station in the center of town and entered a beleaguered neighborhood where scores of migrant families crowded into tiny, ramshackle houses without plumbing or electricity.

A drunken altercation had erupted on the parched lawn of one of the houses, and by the time Tom McLaughlin steered his van onto the block, the hostility had spread among the indentured community with such rapidity, that a furious riot of hurricane proportions swept down the street and engulfed the Chevy.

“Watch out!” Peter screamed from the front passenger’s seat as a beer can struck the windshield, cracking it vertically from top to bottom.

Generations of injustice propelled the raging mob against the van. The despair of endless hours of picking cucumbers and watermelons under the scorching sun for minimum wage welled up within the rioters, driving them to destroy the symbol of servitude that had inadvertently driven into their wrath.

In the midst of the storm of anger, Russell slept peacefully in the back of the van.

“Wake up!” Johnny Jackson yelled as the van rocked violently. “Don’t you care that we’re going to die?”

Russell sat up and rubbed his eyes. He surveyed the situation calmly, then kicked open the rear, van doors and hoisted himself up on the vehicle’s roof.

 “Knock it off,” he shouted to the mob. “I rebuke the source of your anger and oppression. I call upon the God of justice and mercy to lead you into freedom and worth. Receive His way toward social dignity and reject the enemy’s way which will only lead to greater imprisonment and despair.”

The wind of destructiveness ceased and the crowd sank to rest as if exhausted by its own maniacal raving. A great calm filled the neighborhood—a serine peacefulness. The people returned to their homes.

Russell dropped down to the street to face his friends. “Why are you so timid and fearful? Why don’t you trust that God has called you to impact Wilkins? If He has called you, won’t He protect you? You’ve got to live the life.”

As they drove out of the neighborhood, the boys were filled with great awe. And yet, beneath their respect for their friend who could calm crowds with a word, they were each deeply afraid. Who is Russell Hicks and where or to what was he leading them?