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The Other Bridge John Lewis Crossed

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:18, NIV

All Americans should have - and most do - at least some knowledge of Congressman John Lewis and the walk that was partly responsible for his fame and stature in our nation. That walk occurred on March 7, 1965, a day referred to as "Bloody Sunday." Mr. Lewis and The Reverend Hosea Williams led a host of marchers in attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama en route to the state capital of Montgomery. Violence erupted as the group was attacked by local law enforcement, many of whom were civilians deputized that day. Mr. Lewis and many other marchers were beaten, some savagely, resulting in a number of serious injuries.

That day was a pivotal moment in the burgeoning Civil Rights movement as the nation was shocked at the brutality, and the movement took on greater prominence and gained momentum. John Lewis dedicated the rest of his life to the drive for equality and freedom for all Americans, a labor that ultimately led him to the United States House of Representatives, where he served from 1988 until his death on July 17 of this year. During that span, he won 16 elections.

Crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge made John Lewis famous, and it also vividly displayed his courage. But it's not the only bridge he crossed.

On November 19, 2019, Congressman Austin Scott of Georgia held a Special Order tribute in the U.S. House of Representatives to honor Senator Johnny Isakson, also of Georgia, as he retired from the United States Senate due to health reasons. Mr. Lewis was one of the Georgia representatives who rose to speak, to praise Mr. Isakson and his service.

If you watch a video of Mr. Lewis's speech, you'll notice that he stood behind a lectern on one side of a broad aisle in the House's Chamber. Mr. Scott and Mr. Isakson were on the other side of that aisle. It separates the Chamber into two sections, one for the Democrats and the other for Republicans, and it is the reason for the saying, "crossing the aisle" regarding bipartisan efforts. That aisle can be pretty daunting, mighty polarizing, as we've seen of recent and throughout our history.

So, Congressman Lewis rose to speak, and he did so with eloquence and with passion. It is obvious he greatly respected Senator Isakson and that he also personally liked him, even though they often disagreed, perhaps vehemently at times. His words were words of love, a deep and abiding affinity for a fellow Georgian who happened to be a political opponent. As Congressman Lewis drew his remarks to a close, he turned toward the Republican side of the House.

On the video I've watched, it's not apparent at first that Mr. Isakson was walking in a slow and belabored gait toward his colleague. Mr. Lewis clearly saw him coming, saw his struggle, and then he uttered these words, "I will come over to meet you, brother." John Lewis, himself close to 80 years old, then strode toward the aisle.

He didn't merely say, "I love you" with his mouth. He acted it; he lived it; he walked it. He put 1 John 3:18 into practice.

You see, Mr. Lewis didn't meet Johnny Isakson in the middle of the aisle, in neutral territory. Instead, he literally built a bridge with his own two feet and crossed the divide, coming over to the Republican side, and embraced his friend. Then, the two men sat down side by side together, in the Republican section.

Crossing that bridge, that aisle that divides the House, speaks eloquently of Congressman John Lewis and his deep humility, of his kindness, and of his character. It's more than a powerful testament to the man; instead, it's an example to our nation and to each of us.

I'm reminded of Jesus's words to the expert in the law as He wrapped up His wonderful Parable of the Good Samaritan, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:37b, NIV) Would that we might, following the late Congressman's example, say to another, perhaps to one with whom we hold strong disagreements, or even to one who has hurt or wronged us, "I will come over to meet you, brother or sister." Then that we might build a bridge with our feet. And once on the other side, that we might embrace and sit together, no matter which side of the aisle we're on.

If you'd like to see the ending of the speech

and Congressman Lewis crossing the aisle,

To see Congressman Lewis's entire speech,

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