34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. last week, we are reflecting on the qualities that made him a great leader, not only in the Civil Rights movement, but also in the faith.
Martin Luther King, Jr. did more than denounce injustice; he dreamt of something better. He did not merely paint a dreary picture of racial hostility and inequality, but dared to show us a picture of possibility. He imagined a day when blacks and whites were not only equal in the eyes of the law, but joined together around a table in friendship: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
We have come a long way to realizing the dream. But there is always more to do. Some would say there is a lot more to do. Perhaps we can get some of this work done around our dinner tables. Stay with me here. How often do you share a table with those who are different from you, racially, ethnically, socially, or otherwise? Do our calendars and our tables reflect the sort of world Dr. King imagined, or more importantly, the kind of world Jesus calls us to?
Personally, I get comfortable in my middle-aged, mostly white, middle-class, Christian groups. It is easy to reside there. But God calls us out of our comfortable spaces and into the rest of the world. The early disciples were always going further into new spaces with new people. If they had not, we might not be calling ourselves Christians today. There is still much love to be shared, much grace to be offered. And besides what we have to offer, there is much to be learned and received. While it can be uncomfortable to sit with or talk to those who seem different from you, other people, other cultures and even other religions can teach us so much.
We are on a journey of growth, a path toward becoming the best versions of ourselves, fully connected to God. This doesn’t happen in comfort. It happens in risk, challenge, new spaces, and struggle. I long for the “table of brotherhood,” that King talked about. I imagine a place where prejudices of all kinds come to die, differences come to be understood, and the beautiful work of Jesus Christ is in full display.
Dear Lord, help me grow deep in agape love. Show me the places in my community where I can make a change. Guide me to recognize the limit of my powers and give me courage, strength and grace to act as needed. Help me use my freedom for good. Draw me into new spaces and guide me to share my space with others. Create in me a heart full of grace and a soul full of love for your people. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.