Martin Luther King, Jr. Day


“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.“ - Romans 12:9-18

Today's passage from Paul's letter to the Romans could be the core of an Inauguration speech. Now more than ever we need to hear the Apostle's injunction to "hold fast to what is good," "do not repay evil for evil. . . (or) be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

That injunction was also at the core of the American leader whose birthday we remember this day. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life trying to "overcome evil with good." Lord knows, he and others in the Civil Rights movement experienced evil firsthand. But even after being set upon by police dogs and water cannons, the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of the Birmingham church, Rev. King and others held fast to the commitment to overcome evil with good.

It was a commitment deeply rooted in their Christian faith. As Rev. King wrote in Stride Toward Freedom, "a basic philosophy guided the movement. . . referred to variously as nonviolent resistance, noncooperation, and passive resistance." But in the early days, he continued, "none of these expressions was mentioned. The phrase most often heard was Christian love. It was the Sermon on the Mount, rather than a doctrine of passive resistance, that initially inspired the blacks of Montgomery to dignified social action. It was Jesus of Nazareth that stirred the blacks to protest with the creative weapon of love."

"Nonviolent resistance had emerged as the technique of the movement," Rev. King explained, "while love stood as the regulating idea. In other words, Christ furnished the spirit and motivation, while Ghandi furnished the method."

We still need that spirit and motivation.  We also still need what Rev. King called "sense enough and courage and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate." In a word, having the sense, courage, and morality enough to overcome evil with good. May that be our prayer as a nation this day.

Thank you, God, for the witness of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all who have given their lives and are giving their lives to justice and peace. Bless our country with a renewed commitment to overcome evil with your love, so that the only weapon we wield is, in Rev. King's words, "the creative weapon of love." Amen. - Talitha Arnold
Jan 21 2019