We All Need Grace, and Getting It Comes Down to a Choice

This Is True for All Life’s Important Decisions

Our whole life is made up of decisions. It’s up to us to make the right choices.

Too often we don’t.

Sometimes it’s because our life situation is all we’ve ever known.

This was the case for Johnny Lee Clary. He grew up in a family full of hate and fear. His family was racist and full of aggression.

“There was a lot of alcoholism in our home and fighting all the time. My mother was constantly cheating on my father. My mother drove my father into bankruptcy, and then my father was faced with losing everything he had worked hard for.

I watched my father, one night, take a pistol and put it to his head and blow his brains out.”

Johnny was only 11 years old when his father died. Immediately after the funeral, his mother put him on a bus and sent me out to California to go live with his sister.

“That just made me hate that much more. So, I was hating everyone. At 14 years old, I felt like committing suicide myself.  I was thinking seriously about ending my life so I could go be with my dad.”

Then he saw David Duke, head of the Ku Lux Klan on television telling everybody that the White people needed to stick together. This made him feel some kind of a weird connection to his dad.

Johnny wrote Duke a letter telling him his life story. Before long, there was a knock on the door.

“I opened up the door, he shook my hand and said, ‘I’m a friend of David Duke’s.  We’re here to protect you, son.  What you need is a family.’”

The Klansmen taught Johnny the ways of the KKK. When he was 18, he returned to Oklahoma to start his own Klan chapter. Eventually he rose to the rank of Imperial Wizard, the Klan’s top leadership position.

“I finally felt like I’d found something that I could amount to in life.

The FBI opened an investigation on Johnny. He knew it was just a matter of time before he was going to end up getting arrested.

Johnny decided his only shot of staying out of prison was to step down as Imperial Wizard. But when he did, the Klan turned on him, fearing that he was an FBI informant.

Once again, he became a person without any friends. He started drinking, and the fear and hate consumed him.

“I thought of my daddy and I thought Daddy had the right idea. I sat down and was looking at the gun and there was a Bible sitting there. I thought that there is no possible way that the good Lord can forgive somebody like me, because I had been so full of hate. I had all the violence and lived such a bad life.”

He flipped open the Bible and it opened to Luke 15, the story of the prodigal son.

Johnny read Jesus’ parable of the young man who demanded his inheritance from his father, then squandered it all. He returned home to the father remorseful. His father did not chastise him, instead he celebrated his return.

“I finally got on my knees and said, ‘God, my life is screwed up.  God, I’m in a mess.  I need Your help.’”

He went to a nearby church. What he saw there amazed him: Blacks and Whites sitting together.  This moved Johnny’s heart, and at the end of the service, he gave his life to Christ.

“I felt like a new person, brand new creation.  I felt like I had had a weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Johnny wanted to share this with others but didn’t know how to get started, so he called on the Rev. Wade Watts, Minister of an African-American church that the Klan harassed.

“The Klan had set fire to his church and did everything under the sun to harass this man. I remember he debated me at a radio station one time. He looked right at me, and he goes, ‘You can’t do enough to me to make me hate you.  I’m going to love you. I’m going to pray for you whether you like it or not.’”

Johnny went to Rev. Wade Watts and they became good friends.

Johnny learned how to love and live in unity with all people.

“Not only has He given me a good wife to stand by my side, but He’s given me good friends. He’s given me a good life here on earth.  He’s given me hope, gave me the gift of love. Taught me what love’s all about. Isn’t that what God is? 

God is love. 

I’m not that mixed up kid looking for a family anymore.  I’ve got a family. I’ve got a relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

More of Johnny’s story

Most of our have not experienced or done the things that Johnny did, but we all need grace. If he can receive it, so can you.

Receiving grace is a choice and available to anyone who asks for it.

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