On April 7-8, Dr. Clarence Jones spoke at our church 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. We built this week’s GPS around Bible examples King cited in his April 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” White Christian and Jewish clergymen had published a critique of non-violent civil rights protests as too impatient and extreme. Click here to read the full text of King’s powerful response.
43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor [Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you 45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.
27 “But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.
“You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist…. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label…. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you’…. Was not Martin Luther an extremist: ‘Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.’ And John Bunyan: ‘I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.’ And Abraham Lincoln: ‘This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.’ And Thomas Jefferson: ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal...’ So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?”
King Jesus, I want to love all my neighbors, even the ones who think they’re my enemies. That’s much easier to say than to do. Please shape me into an extremist for love. Amen.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Gather your family for a late-night drive out to the country. Find a place where the sky is dark and the stars shine through the darkness. Depending on the weather, place blankets on the ground, lie down and look up at the sky. Take the first moments to simply be still and give thanks for God’s beautiful creation. Invite everyone to try and count the stars. Discuss the difference the stars make in the night sky. Imagine together what the sky would look like without any stars. Read the above quote from Dr. King and Matthew 5:14-16. Share ideas about ways each of you can be lights in the darkness for God. Ask God to help you.
* Augustine, On Grace and Free Will (p. 18).
Life in high school can be hard, and sometimes people mistreat you. You may find it hard to “Love your enemies” as Jesus tells us to do in Luke 6:27. Sometimes you might look at someone and ask if God really wants you to love that person. They could be doing something so harsh and severe, not only to you, but those around you, that it might seem like they don’t deserve love.
Throughout my school years I’ve been made fun of or have been a subject to bullying, as everyone must have been at one point or another. I can say, it isn’t fun. It’s sometimes hard to remember to love your enemies and not just those people you choose to or find easy to love. Honestly, I don’t walk down the halls of my school having Scripture running through my head all day, but sometimes it’ll just come to me because of some random thing throughout the day. I’ll see someone who has done me wrong and remember that Matthew 5:46 says, “If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have?” After remembering this I’ve walked up to someone who’s said a mean thing about me or has pushed me around, and just said something friendly like “Hey, man” or “What’s up?”
Being nice and showing compassion can be as easy as that. It not only makes you feel a little better after you’ve done it, but hopefully shows God to someone else. Maybe they’ve been going through a rough time and just needed someone to talk to but didn’t know how to deal with it.
I am thankful to worship a God who loves me no matter what. I feel inspired and challenged to seek to love others in that same way.
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