Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King -- An Extremist for Love

This weekend we pause to remember the birth of one of America's great prophets, a man who spoke truth to power and pushed the American conscience.  He spoke out against discrimination and segregation.  He spoke out against injustice and poverty.  He spoke out against a war that drained the finances and the spirit of the American people. I was only ten when Martin Luther King was assassinated.  I can't say that I had any real awareness of what was happening in the world at that time, living as I did in a fairly sheltered world of small town America.  But over time I can to understand the message that Dr. King and other activists brought to the American people, a message that we must still hear.  

Last night my congregation hosted for the Michigan Disciples Black Ministers Caucus their annual Martin Luther King service.  It really was a great event, with great preaching and great music.  But it was also an opportunity to build relationships across ethnic boundaries -- something we still need to address.

This morning as I pondered what to share I went looking for quotes from Dr. King and came across this excerpt from his Letter from the Birmingham Jail.  I think this might be a statement worth reflecting upon.  Is there a place for an extremism of love and justice?  And what does that mean?   Consider therefore this statement:
Was not Jesus an extremist for love -- "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice -- "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ -- "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist -- "Here I stand; I can do none other so help me God." Was not John Bunyan an extremist -- "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist -- "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice--or will we be extremists for the cause of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill, three men were crucified. We must not forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thusly fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment.


David said...

I was there in spirit. That man spoke not extreme truth. Every person on earth surely has the capacity to resonate with nearly every stand he publicly took.

We watched the 3rd and final episode of a recorded PBS God in America special tonight. It had an excellent storyline on Martin Luther King. Overall, a very good program (John could find useful it for his religion/ government class to pass around).

David said...

"And don't let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world.

God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and seems that I can hear God saying to America, "You are too arrogant, and if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power!"


John said...


Thanks, I will look into the video. I already went to the PBS website and listened to a fascinating nterview with DR. King from the late '50's about the "New Negro". There was a an old white Southern judge interviewed at the same time and his words were the most surprising, and encouraging.