As I sit at my computer to write this week’s column, there is a news story that has pushed politics from the top spot on my news feed. The New York Times headline told the story, “Harper Lee, Author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Dies at 89.”
In a statement, Lee's family said, “The family of Nelle Harper Lee, of Monroeville, Alabama, announced today, with great sadness, that Ms. Lee passed away in her sleep early this morning. Her passing was unexpected. . . . This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century's most beloved authors. We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly.”
The book remains a staple of high school and college reading lists, and is loved by millions of readers for its portrayal of childhood innocence, its condemnation of racial prejudice, and its assertion that human goodness can withstand the assault of evil. It was number one on a list developed by librarians in 2006 who answered the question, "What novel should every adult read before they die?”
I love reading, but somehow I went most of my life without reading “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It was never on my reading list in high school and I just never got around to reading it. For some reason less than a year ago I decided that I should read it. Scout Finch’s coming-of-age tale drew me in, as it had done many before me, and I loved Atticus Finch. After reading the book I watched the movie. I now understand why the book made such an impact on America. I can only imagine its impact in the turbulent times of the early 1960’s civil rights movement.
Atticus Finch’s virtue stands as an example in our divided society. Ultimately, Atticus Finch’s fight for justice is incomplete. He is a fictional character. There is still racism and injustice in the world. But fortunately there is the example of Jesus. While one fictional lawyer took a stand for one individual who the town saw as wretched and guilty, Jesus died on the cross for a wretch like me. 1 Peter 3:18 (NLT) tells us, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.”
Atticus Finch is one of my all-time favorite fictional characters. But my all-time favorite non fictional character is Jesus Christ. Gentle Reader, remember that we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. If we ask Jesus to be our advocate we can’t lose because He never loses a case. I want Jesus on my case and by my side. I hope that you do too.