I wrote the article below on Thursday, August 10, 2017 before the tragic events of Saturday in Charlottesville, VA this weekend. I might should re-edit my second sentence to: “Until Saturday, I was under the impression that in our sophisticated world, race relations are better than they were when M. L. King presented this sermon in 1963.” I realize there has been racial tension and incidents continuously over the past 54 years, but much of it has been fueled by media and made available since social media. Since I don’t have statistics, I can’t say if racial relations are better or worse but I would like to say this. I personally condemn any acts of hatred. Period. In a doctoral project, my New Testament passage is Colossians 3. Here is verse 11: “In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” In Christ, we are one. We may be different in color and culture, but we are one in Spirit. I only see one spiritual option. Put off racism along with the other vices mentioned in Colossians 3:8-10, “But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. The new self is Christ.” Below is the original blog from Thursday, August 10, 2017.
The sermon titled Loving Your Enemy by M.L. King (King, Loving Your Enemies, as told in OS Guinness Steering Through the Chaos, p. 143-146), was a challenge and encouragement for me as I read and re-read it. I would like to think in our sophisticated world that race relations are better than they were when this sermon was written but I have some African American friends who would disagree as they still experience hatred, prejudice and poverty. Why is the struggle continuing? Because there is still hatred and anger in the world. King’s advice from 1963 is still relevant in the challenge to love one another. Below, King gives three reasons to love one’s enemy:
1. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate.
2. Hate scars the soul and distorts the personality.
3. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
(King, Loving Your Enemies, as told in OS Guinness Steering Through the Chaos, p. 143-146)
There is a society of monks called the Order of St. Benedict, named for Benedict of Nursia who lived in the mid 6th century. His work, The Rules of St. Benedict gives spiritual advice on how to live victoriously in Christ through serving others. The Benedictine’s, as told in the Pratt book, Radical Hospitality, counter anger and hated with hospitality. They take risks by listening and getting to know others who may be different. Their philosophy in life is to serve Christ by serving others. One root of hatred is selfishness. The Benedictines strive not to be self-centered. “Another great enemy of hospitality is narcissism. When we place the great “I” at the center of our universe, we give no value to anyone else. We make commodities of people, consuming them for our personal enrichment and happiness. (Pratt, 72).
The challenge for me and you is to look at others through the eyes of Christ. Instead of asking “what can they do for me?” or “how can I change them?” ask “what are ways I can show my love to them?”
King concludes, “Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because non-co-operation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is co-operation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves.”
King’s response, like the Benedictine’s is to put on love. I wonder if he was thinking of Colossians 3:14-15 when he wrote this message? “Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.”