It’s been nearly a month since I’ve blogged.
I’ve been locked in a busy season of life and ministry. For many involved in full-time (or even part-time and volunteer) ministry, the Advent Season is full and vibrant. Busy but rewarding.
I find that, when ministry demands are high, moments for writing are few and far between.
That’s when I have to create space to write.
Time to Write Doesn’t Just Happen
This morning, I looked at my calendar and was stunned to find that it’s already January 10th. We are ten days into the New Year, and I’ve not written (at least not for this blog) one single word of reflection or encouragement.
So, I am stopping everything else to take time to write.
If you love writing, as I do, then I’d encourage you not to wait until you have time to write before you write. No, make time to write. Even in a post-literate society (one that don’t read :^)), we need our authors. We need to hear from those who help us put words to what we feel, sense, and perceive but are unable to articulate.
So today, on this day that’s already quite full, I am going to pause and reflect on the hope Martin Luther King once had of our world. It seems an appropriate topic since we will celebrate his life in just over a week.
His hope, though not his only hope (after all, we cannot narrow any one man or woman’s entire life down to one idea, no matter how grand) was that Love would win the day.
He did, in fact, repeatedly propose that love is the only hope any of us have.
MLK and His Vision of Love
Before I reflect on Dr. King’s work, I need to confess: I was raised to believe that he was a “card-carrying communist.” That’s right. While I had no idea what that meant, I heard that statement applied directly to him on more than one occasion as a child.
As a son of the south, born and raised in a white, middle-class home in South Carolina, I was born into and built by a larger culture whose racism, though often unspoken, is baked in the bread! Yes, I am talking about the state that flew the Confederate Flag at the State’s Capital until 2015 when Nikki Haley, in the wake of the Charleston Church massacre, led the charge to have it removed.
I say all that to say this: I didn’t discover the depth of Dr. King’s wisdom and the beauty or his great call to love until I entered Seminary, well into my twenty-first year of life. During those years I began to examine many of the assumptions I had grown to know and love as a child.
It was a disruptive time in my life. But, as is the case so often with disruption, it was also a time of renewal!
Love Can Bring Us Together
Since those days of seminary, I’ve read a variety of Dr. King’s sermons, books, articles, etc. Only recently however did I discover the treasure trove of wisdom found in Strength to Love.¹
In Chapter Five, Dr. King remarks on Matthew 5 and the command our Lord gives us to love to our enemies. You know, the part where Jesus tells us to do good to our enemies and to pray for our enemies.
When we do so, he adds, our lives will reflect the very life and heart of our heavenly father.
On page forty-seven of this excellent read, Dr. King reflects on the power of love:
“Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says “Love your enemies,” he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition.”
In a world where we facebook rant about any and everything and unfriend those with whom we have the slightest disagreement, we need a heavy dose of this love conquers all Gospel introduced by Christ and preached by Dr. King. Loving our enemies, unfortunately, seems like a bar far too high. It may be that we need to focus on truly friending and companioning our friend. It may be that we need to become less defensive and thin-skinned.
And, though, the bar feels so often out of reach, Dr. King is right when he proposes that Jesus teaches that the command to love our enemies is the obvious and ultimately inescapable admonition!
I find it to be one of the greatest ironies of the church that we, who possess the Fruit of the Spirit, are often the most easily offended people on the planet. We are also the quickest to rant and rave when our beliefs are mocked or ridiculed.
Ministry and Being Ambassadors of Love
What if we could learn something from Dr. King, who so clearly learned at the feet of our Savior? What if we can go forth and carry a message of love into a world of discord, offense, and pain?
The longer I live and minister in this pain-inflicted and hate-engorged culture, the more I am aware that Love is the only hope any of us have.
I’d go as far a saying that a minister of the Gospel is above all else an ambassador of God’s reconciling and restoring love in a world unacquainted with and often unaware of either.
I am thankful for the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and hopeful that his message of love conquers all will be the message of God’s people in the midst of a world that’s often filled with hate!
Disrupting to Renew!
¹King, Martin Luther, and Coretta Scott King. Strength to Love. Fortress, 2010.