Jan 16, 2010

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

On Monday, 18 January 2010 we as a nation will observe Martin Luther King’s birthday although he was in fact born at noon on 15 January 1929. Many folks deeply appreciate this day and how it shapes our best inclinations as human beings. Of course when we celebrate the civil rights struggle that Dr. King led America through in the 1960s, it also brings to mind Jesus’ words in the first century. In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount we read:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same” (Matthew 5:43-47)?

Do any of us like every person we know? Of course not, but Jesus calls on us to respect a person and not to prejudge them based on race, religion, creed, national origin, and so on. Jesus tells us to love one another—he never says we must like them. On a day like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day the world needs us to remember the dignity of other people and the implicit suggestion that our right to being is no more, or no less, than any other person’s right to being. As Paul reminds us, we may not be equals in our blessedness, but we are indisputably united by our sin: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Sometimes it saddens me when I read some random e-mail or another that puts a whole race or religion or language group or gender down simply because it differs from the sender. God created us all—for better or for worse. My prayer this week as we try to comprehend the tragic circumstances in Haiti (that has even touched individuals in our own congregation) is that we need each other and need one another desperately. To pick a fight with another group of people simply because of the actions of a few seems illogical at best. May we “guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride” as the hymn They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love suggests.

Last, thank you for not sending me or forwarding to me hateful e-mails that degrade any people or groups—as I have enough demons of my own.

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