Perhaps no feud is more a part of American folklore than the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys. These two families are real families that lived, and still live along the Kentucky – West Virginia border. Their feud is legendary. It has even become a part of pop-culture including one episode of the game show “Family Feud,” featuring descendants of the two clans squaring off in a more civilized fashion.
Around the time of the Civil War, the McCoy family joined the Union Army, and the Hatfield family joined the Confederate Army. Living so close together on opposite sides of the war caused conflict. The actual feud began when a member of the McCoy family returned home from the war injured, only to be killed by a band of Homeguard Confederates, led by one of the Hatfields.
The family feud really heated up in 1878 when Randolph McCoy accused the Hatfields of stealing his hog. The Hatfields said the hog was theirs, since it was on their land. Meanwhile, the McCoys claimed the pig had their family’s markings on its ear, making it theirs. The situation became so tense that violence erupted, and Ellison Hatfield was shot to death. Retaliation beget retaliation, and over the next ten years, a dozen people died, including women and children. Since that time, not as much bloodshed has occurred, but the feud has carried over for many years in lawsuits and court battles over land rights and burial sites.
It may not have made many headlines, but after 125 years, the feud was officially and legally over on June 14th, 2003. On that day, the descendants of the original clans met in Pikeville, Kentucky to sign an official end to more than a century of hostility.
There was an end to another form of hostility essential to the story in Acts 10:1-35. That hostility was the hostility between the Jews and Gentiles. Its end didn’t result from a treaty signed in black ink in some remote court house. It ended on a lonely hill called Golgotha, and it was signed in blood. What did away with that two-millennium-long division was the death of one man.
The hostility between Jews and Gentiles in the first century closely parallels the racial and ethnic divide that exists today. The walls of separation between Jews and Gentiles pervaded every area of life. The same is true today! Only the death of Jesus Christ will bring down the impenetrable walls of hostility, and bring about true healing and restoration.
In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul puts it this way:
” For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:11-16)
There is no longer a dividing wall. We must guard against putting up walls of our own among the people we meet. In Christ, there are no walls of separation. The gospel is an inclusive message of hope for all people. We should work to joyfully and eagerly spread the news of Jesus both here and around the world.
Steve Doyle, pastor
Harbins Community Church, Dacula GA