Teaching at a historically baptist seminary that has been a major educational institution for black pastors for almost hundred years, I regularly hear stories from black saints of how those in the African-American churches carried out a peaceful, nonviolent challenge to make things right during the 50’s and 60’s amidst a society that systemically institutionalized racial discrimination. I am inspired each time.
Of course, Dr Martin Luther King, the baptist churchman, made much of this possible with his extraordinary leadership during this time. His witness to the way of non-violence is stunning both in the courage that it took and the results it birthed. This conviction of non-violence is dependent (I believe) on our Christian conviction that Jesus is Lord and in control taking the world into reconciliation through peaceful witness. In other words, we believe “God is able” therefore we need not take the future into our own hands violently.
Yesterday in church, I read from one of King’s sermons “Our God is Able.” In January 1956, in Montgomery Alabama, when things seemed to be going nowhere in MLK’s early attempts to overcome racial disrimincation practices there, he preached this sermon. Yesterday I read this short snippet:
God’s control is never usurped. If at times we despair because of the relatively slow progress being made in ending racial discrimination, let us gain new heart in the fact that God is able. In our sometimes difficult and often lonesome walk up freedom’s road, we do not walk alone. God walks with us. God has placed within the very structures of the universe certain absolute moral laws. We can neither defy nor break them. If we disobey them, they will break us. The forces of evil may temporarily conquer truth, but truth will ultimately conquer its conqueror. Our God is able.
Let these words be a reminder on this day to us that it’s in the simple everyday nonviolent witness to resist forms of discrimination – the refusal to participate – that God continues to work. When we call each other into the good news of forgiveness and reconciliation in each situation – God works to further bring His Kingdom into the world until He comes. We keep living this way unsatisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream throughout our communities, our country, the world. (Amos 5:24).
Blessings everyone, on MLK day.