Tag: Civil Rights Movement

Who through Faith…

Why do we think of faith as an abstract? And why do we doubt the power of faith?

It makes no sense to downplay the importance of faith, nor does it make sense to doubt its power, not with so many tangible examples of how faith has changed our nation.

Today, our nation honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who through his faith forever transformed our nation from a society of systemic racism and segregation to a nation that aspires to live up to its founding principles.

It would be naive to say that we live in a post-racial America, and I believe that there is still much to be done to achieve the racial healing and reconciliation of which Dr. King dreamed.

However, it would be self-defeating to fail to recognize the progress that has been made, and the cause of that progress.

Dr. King was motivated by a dream, a dream built on the foundations of his core convictions, which were born of his faith.

That faith was in the God almighty, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To deny this is to deny the sermons Dr. King preached at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, or his belief in the power of Agape love to not only bring about racial equality, but reconciliation as well.

To deny Dr. King’s faith as his motivation is to deny an entire paragraph of his “I Have A Dream” speech, which states, “This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with.

“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

“With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

To deny the faith of Dr. King and to deny the scriptures as the source of that faith is to deny the Biblical imagery that defined his speeches, whether the carving of the stone of hope from the mountain of despair, to the mountaintop Dr. King said the Lord took him to, allowing him to see the promised land.

To deny the faith of Dr. King is to deny his optimism, fully communicated in his speeches, which came from his belief that God would bring his dream to fruition, even if not fully realized until the coming of the Lord.

Dr. King’s legacy of racial equality, national repentance, and racial reconciliation cannot be denied. Neither can the faith be denied which moved him to lead this national transformation. Faith in the Lord brings amazingly great things.

Hebrews 11:33 says, “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, and stopped the mouths of lions.” Hebrews 2:20 says that faith without works is dead. In other words, faith motivates action, and when faith motivates action, great changes happen.

As we remember and celebrate the accomplishments of Dr. King, and the transformation he led America through, let us not forget the faith that birthed it all.

Furthermore, let’s remember that the next great advancement in our society, whatever it may be, will not be born from a desire for significance, a desire for change, or a change at the ballot box. The next great advancement will come when the people of God act on their faith and carry God’s amazing message to the people.

With this faith… we advance.

When the Light shines, darkness scatters

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Few people positively impacted American culture more than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His leadership in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was propelled by his faith, and his understanding that America could not survive under the racial division, animosity and segregation that defined America in the first half of the 20th Century.

If the land of opportunity, the free nation he knew growing up was to survive the test of time, then the cancer of segregation had to be surgically removed. The danger of cancer treatment, however, is that it can often cause as much damage to the body as the cancer itself.

Dr. King understood this. He understood that for America to emerge from the Civil Rights Movement stronger, freer and more prosperous, the Civil Rights Movement had to not only secure freedom and opportunity to the African American community, but also had to foster reconciliation between African Americans and their white counterparts.

You see, one of the biggest hurdles to desegregation in the South was the fear held among many whites that, once equally protected under the law, African Americans would begin to enact Jim Crow style laws against them as a multi-century payback for the sins of the past.

During the 1960s, it was not uncommon to hear someone say, “The day is coming when a white man will be afraid to pump gas.”

And while there was a feudal societal structure in the South, Dr. King understood that the old Confederate caste system could be overturned if he assuaged the fears of middle-class, working voters.  Therefore, he reminded his followers, partners and supporters that “darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Dr. King understood to change the South, he had to change its heart, and that required love.

In a speech given on the subject, Dr. King described the three Greek words used to describe love: eros, which is romantic love, phileo, which is brotherly affectionate love, and agape which describes the self-sacrificial love that regards the need and well-being of the other, rather than self.

This agape love is the love that propelled Christ to the cross to redeem us from sin. And it’s that agape love that Dr. King urged his followers to have toward those who opposed the Civil Rights Movement.

In a sermon entitled, “Love Your Enemies,” preached at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., Dr. King taught how love has a redemptive quality to it. Hate destroys. Love redeems.

Even back in 1957, Dr. King had caught the vision of not only eliminating Jim Crow from American society, but seeing America redeemed to the free and open country envisioned in the writings of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Dr. King did not want to, nor did he advocate, defeating any segment of society. Rather, he envisioned redeeming his adversaries over to his point of view, creating a stronger, unified, just and free United States of America.

Love redeems.

America has had a relapse. The cancer of racism and racial division has returned, and once again a generation has been called upon to treat and remove this cancer.

As we strive toward racial healing, reconciliation and unity, let’s not focus on the sins of the past, nor be distracted by the vitriolic voices that would divide us further. Let’s remember Dr. King’s vision of redeeming our adversaries, as well as each other, through love.

We can do this if we learn to love the sinner, while hating the sin and system he is in. If we speak the truth gently and faithfully, while rejecting responses of anger or violence, we will allow the evil of our day to be revealed for what it is, without clouding the picture with our own indiscretions.

Love your enemies, and do not evil thinking good will come. We’ve been here before, we’ve overcome this challenge before, and we can again. Redemption and reconciliation will come, if we do God’s will.