Monday, January 16

Reflections on Wisdom from MLK

On his birthday I would like to reflect on some quotations from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Perhaps not his most famous statements, but I want to choose some thoughts that are not as well known as "I Have a Dream."

"Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase."
That is a lot of faith sometimes. Reminds me of an Indiana Jones recall that scene? It was in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The intrepid Han, wrong movie...Indiana Jones was on a quest for the Holy Grail. As one who spent many a teenage hour reading about King Arthur and his court - this was definitely my favorite of the series (though they could have really skipped the whole train car full of snakes thing!). As Indy is following his father's notes to complete his quest - he gets to a chasm that he must cross. But there is no visible means to do so. His father's notebook says to step out on faith. And so he steps forward into nothingness. This summer I couldn't force myself to step off a ramp to jump about 15 feet into the river. I don't know what it would take to step out into a seemingly endless canyon. But when Indy does - his foot touches solid ground. The bridge was there the whole time, it looked so much like the landscape couldn't see it.

How many times do we find ourselves in that same situation in our lives? We don't want to leave the comfort of the ledge that we are on. Don't want to face the unknown of leaving the abusive husband or the dead-end job. Scared to go back to school or write the book? Afraid of failure...rejection...success? There is a great lesson to be learned in Dr. King's words (and Indy's step). Too often we wait for the push off the cliff instead of stepping forward in faith. I'm going to try to overcome that fear...and maybe jump off the ramp into the river. As soon as the river is a little warmer!

"Let no man pull you low enough to hate him." 
Oh man...that is hard. I was part of a group studying Philip Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace a few years ago. In that book there is a story about Will Campbell - and his friend Jonathan Daniels. The two were involved in the civil rights struggle...and Jonathan was gunned down in Alabama by deputy sheriff Thomas Coleman. Will was forced to confront to concept of forgiveness head on when P.D. East asked him a tough question (I paraphrase because there is more to the story...) - did God love Jonathan Daniels or Thomas Coleman more?

His response? From Yancey's book:  Suddenly everything became clear. Everything. It was a revelation...I walked across the room and opened the blind, staring directly into the glare of the street light. And I began to whimper. But the crying was interspersed with laughter. It was a strange experience. I remember trying to sort out the sadness and the joy. Just what I was crying for and what I was laughing for. Then this too became clear. I was laughing at myself, at twenty years of a ministry which had become, without my realizing it, a ministry of liberal sophistication... I agreed that the notion that a man could go to a store where a group of unarmed human beings are drinking soda pop and eating moon pies, fire a shotgun blast at one of them, tearing his lungs and heart and bowels from his body, turn on another and send lead pellets ripping through his flesh and bones, and that God would set him free is almost more than I can stand. But unless that is precisely the case then there is no Gospel, there is no Good News. Unless that is the truth we have only bad news, we are back with law alone.

It would be easy to hate Thomas Coleman. It would be easy to judge him. But judgement isn't our job. We are supposed to pray for those who persecute us. Jesus himself said in the sermon on the mount - If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. (Luke 6:32) Or as the youth class likes to phrase people who love you? you want a cookie for THAT?

Recently a Facebook friend went through an ugly breakup. I know that the two are better off apart. I also know that the person who I am a friend of is a Christian. But in the midst of all her status updates of hatred and negativity...maybe I should have at least suggested to her privately that she is to be in prayer for him. I have a feeling it would NOT be well received. But I feel like I may have chickened out. Maybe I need to go back to that section up there about stepping out on faith.

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
We have to walk a mile in each others' shoes. Build bridges. Listen more than we talk. Only then will the dream come true. I still have hope. I still believe in the dream that one day we WILL be judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin. Or anything else.

Hamster beaten.

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