The Lord commanded Moses to solicit his brother’s help.
While Marshall is the story of Thurgood Marshall and his beginnings with the NAACP in a career-defining case, it’s the story of his reluctant recruit, Sam Friedman, that I found particularly compelling and instructive.
Friedman was not a trial lawyer, nor did he have any desire to be. He didn’t ask to be involved, didn’t want to help. He was practically forced into helping Thurgood Marshall, and only agreed because he simply had to get Marshall in the door, and then he’d be done with it all. Or so they all thought. The judge, however, refused to let Marshall speak in court, and required Friedman to try the case. Suddenly, he was roped into something he hadn’t wanted to be part of, something inflammatory that he couldn’t hide from. Something he would certainly be persecuted for (later he was in fact beaten up for his involvement).
As Friedman and Marshall were discussing his involvement, Sam asked incredulously, “You want me to try this case?” Marshall replied, “No. I need you to try this case. The Lord commanded Moses to solicit his brother’s help. He shall be your mouth and you shall be his god.” Friedman was Jewish, so the reference was meaningful. The Bible is full of reluctant recruits. Moses himself was a bit reluctant, if you’ll recall. God is often calling us to something greater than we really want to be a part of—often because we know that His higher call will require us to grow, to change, to work, to suffer. There are the Marshall’s of the world who volunteer, who want that higher calling, who feel an inner compulsion to it. But I think the majority of us are more like Friedman. We are reluctant, so God eases us in with something a little benign, until we find that we are stuck and compelled to move forward. You might even feel you’ve been tricked into it.
Along the way, however, something began to change in Sam. He didn’t want to get involved, but once he was, even a beating couldn’t sway him. Along the way he became a believer, a crusader. Along the way he realized it felt good to make a difference in the world, to work for something that mattered in the world. Some things you just don’t know until you experience it. This is why God sometimes “tricks” us into things. He knows that once we get a taste of something better, we’ll prefer it.
Marshall saw the change in Friedman. He told him, “I need an army of lawyers like you, Sam. An army of lawyers who don’t even know they want to make a difference… Who I can train.” Once Sam was trained, that reluctant Sam who was literally forced into service, he never left. He became an advocate for civil rights. THIS is discipleship. It’s taking people who don’t even know there’s a higher calling for their lives, and training them. It’s giving people a taste of not just living for comfort and for themselves, but living for a purpose, for the service of God and His Kingdom. It’s bringing in an army of people who will fight against the darkness in the name of the Christ. People who will “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, …set the oppressed free and break every yoke… Share your food with the hungry and … provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, … clothe them, and not … turn away from your own flesh and blood” (Isaiah 58:6-7).
Questions for Discussion:
- Have you ever been forced into something you didn’t want to do, and then found you liked it?
- How did Marshall “disciple” Friedman?
- Marshall may be the bigger name, but how important was Sam Friedman to Marshall’s success? How does this make you feel about your role in the world?
- We don’t necessarily want to be pushy, but is there anyone in your world that you feel you should nudge into something deeper and richer and better? Someone you should be discipling?