Clarence Jordan. was a Baptist preacher who, in the 1940’s was inspired by God to purchase land in south Georgia and form a community where people treated each other as equals, no matter what the color of their skin. Jordan and his wife, Florence, joined a missionary couple, the Englands, bought a plot in Americus, Georgia and began to farm. Though Jordan had grown up on a farm and received a degree in agriculture, he still had a lot to learn. There were many days, he said, when he would climb to the roof of his hut to see what his neighboring farmers were doing that day, and then he would get down and do the same.
Over time, Jordan gained a reputation, not so much for his farming, as for his relations with the “local colored people” as they were then (politely) called. People heard that he paid black hired hands a livable wage, much more than other farmers in the area. People also heard that he invited blacks into his kitchen where they would pray together and share a meal.
Finally, some bigoted neighbors had heard enough. They sent a delegation from what was called a “Citizens Council” which was a fancy name for the Ku Klux Klan. Jordan greeted them at the door. They got right to the point.
“Mr. Jordan, we’re here on behalf of the community to let you know that we don’t let the sun go down on a man who eats with a nigger.”
Clarence looked at them, grinned, and held out his hand.
“Well, sirs, I’m a Baptist preacher, and I’ve always wanted to meet the Man who had power over the sun.”
They never came back. In time, they organized a local boycott, trying to drive him out by not selling or buying things from the farm. Jordan adapted by setting up a roadside stand on the highway and selling to visiting passersby. Later, he began to sell products mail order.
Jordan’s community, which became known as “Koinonia” (the Greek word for community) grew. As the Civil Rights battles heated up in the 1960’s so did the attacks on Koinonia. In one year, there were over a dozen bomb threats and twice the roadside stand was destroyed beyond repair. A friend of Jordan’s asked him once why he didn’t just pick up and leave. Jordan replied –
“You don’t understand how deeply I am connected with this land. I’ve farmed this land for over 20 years. We’ve raised our family here. I buried a son over in that field. And you think I can just pick up and leave? You might as well tell me to rip out my heart to keep it beating.”
Clarence Jordan knew what it meant to be one with another, to be connected with the land and with each other. God’s desire for us is to be one in Christ, no matter who we are, no matter what we do. The mystery of God’s grace is that in the Spirit of Christ, we become one, … no matter how different we are, no matter what we believe about ourselves. In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, man or woman, black or white, but we are all one.