Monday, January 17, 2011

Peacemaking in the Way of Jesus (Part 1 of 5): A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last week, I had the privilege of gathering with about 30 extraordinary men and women who have devoted themselves and their lives to promoting peace in the way of Jesus. As I sat at the feet of these heroes and learned from their experiences, I could not help but ponder the beautiful coincidence that our peacemaking summit took place the week leading up to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

Dr. King is not just a hero for African-Americans and other minorities; he is a hero for all of humanity. Although we humans still have a long way to go, Dr. King helped us all move a significant step closer to the ideal that God seemed to imagine for us when he set the world in motion.

In an attempt to honor the contribution Dr. King has made to the cause of peace, I intend to craft a blog entry each day of this work week highlighting some person or group who is heroically promoting peace in the way of Jesus. Today, I will focus the spotlight on Dr. King himself.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King epitomized the teachings of Jesus by loving his enemies and overcoming evil with good. (If you are not familiar with these prevailing themes in the New Testament, Matthew 5 and Romans 12 would be great starting points.) Regarding Dr. King's love for his enemies, I cannot improve upon the words of Tony Campolo:

More recently, we can find the Christ principle of love in Martin Luther King, Jr. When those who espoused his philosophy of nonviolence marched for their freedom, from Selma toward Montgomery, Alabama, they were stopped at the bridge on the edge of town. Confronting them were police and national guardsmen, armed with their instruments of power. When the word was given to King's followers to turn back, they answered, "We've come too far to turn back now." The demonstrators got down on their knees to pray, fully aware of how vulnerable this made them. Then the sheriff's deputies waded into them, swinging their billy clubs, turning loose their attack dogs, and knocking people down with powerful bursts of water from fire hoses.

As I watched it all on live television, I knew at that moment in history that the civil rights movement had won. If anyone had asked me, "How do you figure that they have won? All I see are the followers of Martin Luther King getting battered and beaten and even killed," I would have answered, "Those who follow the way of Jesus have a strange habit of rising again, because there is no power on earth that can keep love down. When all that can be done to destroy them has been done, they will rise again." Martin Luther King declared to his enemies, "If you beat us, we will love you. If you jail us, we will love you, and if you kill us, we will die loving you!" As history testified, love indeed triumphs over power.   (Taken from Which Jesus? by Tony Campolo; locations 288-299 in the Kindle edition)

Friends, I invite you to join me today in celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, a hero who labored for peace in the way of Jesus!

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