My model and mentor for being a pastor was Dr. James G. Harris, Senior Minister of University Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. During our days at seminary, Dr. Harris taught a field education class to those of us seeking to fulfill our call as pastors. I was a member of his church, taught a fifth-grade boys Sunday school class and sang in the choir. Dr. Harris counseled us as Dorothy and I prepared to marry. Together Dorothy and I taught the junior high Training Union class on Sunday evenings and helped in the young adult department. Dr. Harris led my ordination council and sent us forth to Tulsa in 1973. In January of 1974, Dorothy and I returned to Fort Worth for a few days, where Dr. Harris, provided wise counsel as my responsibilities here at the church began to change.
One of the things Dr. Harris believed has always stayed with me. He would repeat this occasionally as the ushers prepared to receive the Sunday morning offering, and it is very appropriate during this Christmas season. He would say, “Anyone can give without loving, but no one can love without giving.” Hearing reports this week of the Black Friday crush of the crowds fighting, pepper spraying and using stun guns on fellow shoppers reminded me once again of how far off the mark we have wandered concerning Christmas and giving.
As messed up, off-the-mark and downright mean as we have gotten, Christmas continues to remind us that no one can love without giving—not even God. “God so loved the world,” the familiar verse says, “that He gave His only Son that we might have eternal life.” Dr. Harris gave his all to God and University Baptist Church. Dr. Harris died on a beautiful early Sunday morning in January, 1975, as he jogged around the high school track, preparing his mind, body and soul to preach of God’s love gift that day. His memorial service became a true spiritual and church-wide homecoming as hundreds of us returned to say thank you to God for giving us the gift of James Gordon Harris.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Give out of your love. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.