Based on Based on Amos 5:18-24
Let me begin this week’s Meditation by admitting that it’s far longer than usual. I apologize for that, but preachers do sometimes get carried away!
When I was the pastor of Charleston’s Morris Brown AME Church, a local college President called me to ask if the youth of the church could partner with some of the college’s students to repair a “poor” family’s house on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday.
I kindly declined, and I told him why I did. I told him that “Pastor” King would have probably supported such an effort and that I’d support such an effort on any other day, but that “Dr.” King – the civil rights leader we honor on “King Day” – would have asked why there were still “poor” people in the richest nation in the world. That’s the kind of inequality that Dr. King lived – and died – to combat and correct.
I thought of that conversation on King Day 2018, when many across our nation came together to remember Dr. King by listening to his stirring speeches, talking politely about unity, locking arms, singing “We Shall Overcome” and then simply going back to “business as usual,” while doing nothing consistent or substantial to further Dr. King’s work in the present age.
We’d do well to remember the “real” Dr. King – not the “sanitized” Dr. King who is now broadly loved, admired and, in many respects, mischaracterized by those who sometimes hypocritically “co-opt” his memory to justify divisive and bigoted political agendas that would have been repulsive to him.
Martin King was a relentless warrior for civil rights and equal justice who confronted America’s “status quo” with a moral voice and nonviolent action. He was bitterly criticized as a dangerous and subversive “agitator” fifty years ago – just as Colin Kaepernick and his NFL peers, who “took a knee” on the football field this NFL season to stand against racial injustice – have been bitterly criticized today.
Dr. King was an eloquent speaker whose words have rightfully endured, but we ought to remember what he did as well as what he said. He led nonviolent protests, stood toe-to-toe against violent racists who sometimes wore badges and, because he did, he was beaten, jailed, called a radical by the “political moderates” of his day, labeled as a Communist by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and eventually assassinated for demanding that America live up to its claim to champion “liberty and justice for all.”
Remember the “real” Dr. King and carry his work on today because, contrary to what some claimed when Barack Obama was elected President, we don’t live in a “post-racial” America. The words and deeds of the ignorant and insecure racist who now occupies the White House, of those in his political “base” that he rudely, crudely and profanely cultivates and of those in his political party who stay cravenly and obediently silent in the face of evil are proof of that.
Walk in Dr. King’s footsteps. Live by the Biblical admonition of the Prophet Amos, who said that God desires justice and righteousness to flow freely. Practice the “good religion” described by the James who said, “faith without works is dead.” Follow the Jesus Who refused to cater to the “religious right” of His day – those who turned a blind eye to people who were unjustly treated – and Who infuriated them by associating with and reaching out to those that they ridiculed, but that He called “the least of these my children.”
Let your faith live through your work. Advocate for health care for all, defend those who face deportation because of their ethnicity, stand up for those who are labeled as “dangerous” because of the color of their skin, faith, gender or nations of birth and pray even for some white folk who are so consumed by fear of the “other” that they support politicians and policies that hurt them because they’re focused on holding “others” back.
Do the right thing and stand up for truth, Justice and righteousness, just as Dr. King did. Do so knowing that your work won’t eliminate all of the challenges in your life and that not everyone will praise you for doing so. Jesus and Dr. King were murdered for doing the right thing, but do the right thing anyhow.
When you do so, then even in the face of opposition, God will bless you, stand with you, provide for you and bring you victory, joy, hope and peace of mind in spite of life storms. You may not be praised by – and might be “trolled” online by – those in this world, but you’ll stand your ground, do God’s will and serve the Lord as Dr. King did, assured that when your work is done, you’ll realize the affirmation of the words penned by one hymn writer, “He’ll understand, and He’ll say, ‘well done.’”