August 28, 1963 – Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his beloved “I have a dream…” speech. Wow – 50 years ago! For many of us, it wasn’t simply a history class lesson. We were there to hear about it from television commentators, read about it in newspapers or listen to our parents talk about it around the dinner table. Some applauded Dr. King for his call to end racism. Others were less than positive. Worse yet, some reacted with total apathy.
He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
To many, his dream that his “four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” summarizes his message. He challenged a society to look past appearance and see others as God sees them. It contained a spiritual context and extended well beyond the ethnicity issues that continue to plagued our culture today.
Many don’t know that Dr. King was more than an American civil rights movement speaker. He held a doctorate from Boston University in systematic theology and served as a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama. His message of love, acceptance and forgiveness was centered in his faith – a faith that he studied, lived, preached and offered to the nation.
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“To live together as brothers” resonates with the echo of God’s message as given to us through the living example of Jesus Christ. In all reality, to dig into Dr. King’s quotes is to dig into Christ’s message to us. It’s a message of love, hope, forgiveness and plain old getting along with others. It’s loving God enough that we instinctively love each other – even if they are different than we are. It’s taking the time to reach out to the woman at the well. (John 4:4-42) You know her. She’s, well…different. She’s a Samaritan, for crying out loud…a half-breed to the Hebrews. She’s been married 5 times and lives with a man to whom she is not married. She’s even shunned by the other Samaritan women. She comes from the wrong city, has the wrong skin color, lives the wrong life and shouldn’t be noticed by a nice Jewish leader. What was Jesus thinking anyhow?
Have you seen her? Maybe…but maybe not. She remains with us today in many forms. Maybe it’s her skin color. It might be too light for some crowds, too dark for others. Maybe it’s her job, her family, or her nationality. Maybe it’s the way she thinks, her ability to do things or her deepest desires. She might be liberal or conservative; bright or mentally challenged; straight or gay. Maybe she is not a woman, maybe she is a man or a child for “she” represents those who live outside of the acceptance and compassion given people who live up to the expectations of a culture. It happens when we see or hear something about and assign generalizations to an individual based on appearance or a singular event.
Look at it another way. What divides us? Politics and religion seem to have the corner on that market. We climb onto our pedestals assuming that our exclusive club is right and support that concept by making anything outside of our comfort zone “wrong”. We sink deeper and deeper into our perspectives until anything challenging our beliefs must be confronted, belittled, and defeated. Our boundaries become so pronounced that compromise appears as weakness, when in reality it should be the blending of the beauty in differing opinions to reach a solution which is better than either side could achieve on it’s own. It should be about compassion, about love, about looking at “the other” as part of God’s divine creation and treating them as if they matter. It’s about loving our neighbor as ourself…even if they don’t agree with us or look like us. And, it’s about navigating life in God’s creation as we embrace the good; discern what to speak out against; and generally grow in wisdom as we learn from each other.
I wonder what Dr. King would think if he were to join us for the day.