No feud is more a part of American history than the legendary feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. It has even become a part of pop-culture, with appearances of the descendants of both clans in an episode of the Family Feud game show. The a phenomenally popular mini-series, The Hatfields and The McCoys, featuring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, also brought the infamous feud to small screen.
The animosity between the families began shortly after the Civil War, when Asa McCoy, who fought for the Union, returned home from the war, and was murdered by a band of ex-Confederate soldiers led by a Hatfield.
The feud heated up in 1878, when Randolph McCoy accused a Hatfield of stealing one of his hogs. The Hatfields said the hog was theirs, since they found the animal on their land. 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 led to more violence, and over the next ten years, a dozen people died, including men, women and children. Since that time, not as much bloodshed has occurred, but the feud has carried over for 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.
The Bible speaks of another kind of hostility that separated many people in the time of Jesus. This two-millennium-long hatred between Jews and Gentiles did not end as the result of a treaty signed in black ink in some remote courthouse. It ended on a lonely hill called Golgotha, in a covenant signed in blood – the innocent and precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians said, ” 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)
The walls of separation between Jews and Gentiles pervaded every area of life in the first century, and the
same is still true today! Nearly every day we see it in the news. The most persistent aspect of human nature is our tendency to fear and mistrust people who are different. Whether it is racism, sexism, or ageism, like the Hatfields and the McCoys, all it takes is a spark for prejudice and bigotry to spill over into hatred and violence. Additionally, many of us are extremely good at building walls to keep out those with whom we do not wish to associate.
However, there is good news! In Jesus Christ, there is no longer a dividing wall, and we can become brothers and sisters in the family of God through His sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus didn’t die for just one group of sinners. He died for all sinners, regardless of their surname or the color of their skin. As His followers, we are to love as He loved. Furthermore, we are to love those who reject our love, and even those who hate us.
Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27)
Only the death of Jesus Christ will bring down the impenetrable walls of hostility between people, and bring about healing and restoration. The Apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
In Christ, there are no walls of separation! The Gospel is an inclusive message of hope for all people. Therefore, we must guard against putting up walls of our own making, and whenever possible tear down the walls put up by society and culture.
We must embrace our mission to spread this message everywhere. Paul stated, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself, and has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation, namely that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19)
Let us end the feud by embracing and proclaiming the transforming truth that through Jesus’ death and resurrection the walls that divide us can be broken down.
This article was adapted from a story written by my son, Steve Doyle, pastor of Harbins Community Baptist Church, Dacula, Georgia.