Of Greens and the Gospel

Every culture around the world has some particular way to ring in the New Year. Perhaps this January 1st you counted down to midnight anticipating the dropping of a ball (or peach or possum) and celebrated the day jumping in an almost freezing body of water watching fireworks. In many Black American homes, particularly those with Southern roots, New Year’s Day was celebrated by eating a meal which included black eyed peas and collard greens. Eating these menu items on the first of the year is traditionally associated with prosperity and fortune. The way the tradition was explained in my household, greens represented cash and the peas represented coins – eating them on New Year’s Day insured that you’d have plenty of both for the rest of the year. This year I was sure to include some greens on my plate, but that wasn’t always the case. We’ll get back to that.

During the last week of 2017, an advertised post from an independent ministry found its way to my Facebook feed. It linked to an article about what it called “biblical” gender roles. The article was oppressively patriarchal and oozed of toxic stereotypes. I read the comments and noted that most of the people commenting had also gotten this ad as an unexpected and unsolicited surprise. The commenters not only included other Christians, but avowed atheists who were offended to receive the ad. I typed out a response to the link noting that the ideals it embodied gave Christianity a bad name. A young man replied to my post that “Christianity is all garbage anyway”. His experiences with religion had left a bitter taste in his mouth.

He reminded me of my hate affair with collard greens. Each January 1st, while I’d gladly eat black eyed peas, my mother would try to cajole me to eat collards. I would begrudgingly take a few bites to appease her, but I wouldn’t eat any more than a forkful for the next 12 months. The problem was that collards were repulsive. It’s not that I didn’t like vegetables: I would happily gobble up spinach, carrots, and broccoli. But collards got a hard pass from me. They were too bitter. When I became an adult, even the annual forkful of collards was phased out of my life. Anytime collards were present at a dinner they would be notably absent from my plate.

Being a pastor, one tends to get multiple invitations to people’s homes for dinner. And folks take notice of what you eat. My parishioners knew my dislikes: collards were at the top of the list. It almost became a mission for the cooks in my congregations to get me to try them. One day, after years of insistence that her greens were not bitter, I finally tried the collard greens of one of my congregants. She was sure I’d love them. She was right! Not only were they not bitter, they were actually kind of sweet. After that successful venture, I tried others’ collards. I noted that the vast majority actually weren’t bitter. In fact an internet search revealed most tutorials on preparing them included a portion about how to eliminate the bitter taste. Wait…they weren’t supposed to be bitter? Because of my experiences as a child, that’s what I thought they were like. I felt like I’d missed out on good greens for years.

God invites us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). But instead of an experience that’s sweeter than the honey of a honeycomb (Psalm 19:10), people are often served up a version of Christ that’s bitter and repulsive. The Gospel was not meant to be like that. But because this is the only experience some people have had, they believe this is what God is like.

I avoided great greens for years because of my mom’s presentation of collards. Regrettable, though not tragic. But there are folks all over the world missing out on far greater joy and blessing because of bitter presentations of Christianity.

I entered into a conversation with the guy who replied to my Facebook comment. I shared my own testimony. I invited him to just try God for Himself, despite what he may have heard before and in spite of his previous bitter experience. While I may not know if he’ll actually take what I said to heart in real life, at least we had a dialogue. Maybe it may take some time – perhaps years of prompting by the Spirit’s use of various people – but maybe he’ll eventually taste and see for himself that the Gospel really is sweet.

While I can’t be sure of what he will do, if anything, I can determine to present Christianity correctly. Let’s all make a resolution to share the Gospel sweetly – the way it was meant to be.

Courtney Ray, MDiv, PhD is a clinical psychologist and ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Previous Spectrum columns by Courtney Ray can be found at:


Image Credit: Wikimedia - By Clancy Ratliff from St. Paul, MN, U.S. - Soul Food, CC BY-SA 2.0

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8485

I was blessed by this beautiful invitation to “taste and see that the Lord is good”. Thanks, Courtney


The same can be said of our SDA’s mission.

We do have a great gospel message to proclaim but the church’s presentation fluctuates between exclusiveness and inclusiveness, depending on who is at the GC helm. Sadly our current GC leaders’ presentation of our mission have alienated many and led others to avoid church participation just as you “avoided great greens for years because of my mom’s presentation of collards.” Lesson to learn: What matters most in life are not the problems as we have no control over them. It’s how we solve the problems in life as we do have control of how they are resolved.

BTW, I love collards.

1 Like

Yes –
God says to all, Come and Eat.
God calls to all, HO! Listen! Any one who is thirsty! Come! Drink!
God says, Let’s sit down and visit.

But we Have To WATCH OUT for the Butlers!!! The Butlers have for some reason
decided ON THEIR OWN what their Job Description is.
They believe that they have to “Protect God”. And believe that they have to SCREEN
those who CAN be admitted into the parlor and have a wonderful visit with God.
There are TOO MANY Butlers in the Christian Church. Too many Butlers in the
Seventh-day Adventist church.
God sits in the Parlor waiting to serve His delicious beverage. But no one is there
with Him!!! He is ALL ALONE.
Thanks to the well-meaning Butlers.

Yes, Collards, other greens, and other vegetables can be prepared. They can either taste
good or bad. It takes a SKILLED COOK to make ANY vegetable luscious, tasty, desirable
to have on one’s plate.
Same with presenting the words of the Bible.
It is difficult MANY TIMES to decide bringing GUESTS to SDA church because of the
"bitter herbs" that I hear presented.


Thank you, Courtney, for making the main thing the main thing!



I wish to appoint the collard Greens as a jury of twelve clergy denominations chosen to decide what gospel has the better Jesus Christ. I take caution that wishing cannot alter facts - but lying can. Mom’s presentation of collards were facts tomorrow not be less the bitter dislikes what yesterday did in passion affectation.

I have spent the last few months promoting and campaigning, live & on the internet, to counter trite superficial, abstract, .Christian clichés, religious lingo & unexplained bible verses that are continually regurgitated and/or parroted.

How does one taste the Lord? Do they lick His skin?

What is the experience that is supposed to be sweeter than honey of a honeycomb? (Ps 19:10)

Read the previous verse.
“Reverence for the Lord is pure,
lasting forever.
The laws of the Lord are true;
each one is fair.” Ps 19:9

Some versions show decrees, ordinances…etc.

They are more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey…
Is that what is intended to communicate?
Many here have a bad taste in their mouth from ANY LAW.period.

Earthlings= wicked , deceived,(Jer 17:9) law trashing, God hating, (Rom 8:7)truth trampling (2 Thess 2) criminals on penal colony Earth.

Do any readers here expect the typical person to have a correct evaluation on Christianity, especially any atheists?

2000 years ago many if not most, “received Him not”, said they would “not have Him rule over them”. Wanted Barabbas, and Caesar.
Think—Only 8 got on the ark.

It is time to have a 2018 wake up call & reality check and address the plague of SDA fanaticism.

I agree that the real concept of Christianity=warped… Who is responsible for that? Who do people listen to at church? ----Pastors & SS teachers…who don’t know what the gospel is, grace means or what salvation is and how to be saved.

So here we have another article with a hit on WO…is Ted Wilson the local pastor of every reader’s local church here?