Well, it may be cliche, but I'm going to talk about Martin Luther King today. It is the day to remember him, after all. And, in keeping with pastor John Piper's confession and discussion about racism in his newest book, Bloodlines (available for free download--click the title), I'll make my own confession today.
No, mine is not a confession of racism, though I'm probably guilty of racism to some degree--either in the past or today. And, if race hasn't been the issue for me, then mere difference was and is. (Maybe I'm guilty of differrentism. Yeah. Differentism is when you alienate another simply because they're different in some way. [I'm not sure if differentism is real word, but I'm adding it to my vocabulary today.] It's probably worse than racism. Both have the effect of denying the hope of the gospel, which is union and communion with God in Christ.)
Okay. So here is my confession: I didn't give Martin Luther King, Jr. a fair listening when I first read him. No, it wasn't a race matter, as I've already said. It was a differentism matter. He didn't sound biblical enough to me--or biblical as I understood the theology of the Bible. Because of this, I didn't hear what he had to say, despite how rhetorically powerful his "I have a Dream" speech and his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
See, I missed the point. Entirely. I missed King's point and I missed the point of the gospel. Maybe King did slide into a sort of Social Gospel mentality (or maybe he was accused of such). And I'm not sure if he assumed too much hope in the power of the government to remedy the divide of the races or not. Regardless, he did long for unity of people. And, I think at the heart of this unity, he had Christ in mind, the only person in whom true unity can be found.
I confess that I don't necessarily agree with everything Martin Luther King, Jr. said and did. But I also confess that he probably understood the heart of the gospel better than I did and perhaps better than I do today.
In his own words, King (somewhat hesitantly, I gather) agreed that he was a drum major. In a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, he said, "Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that's all I want to say."
So today, I salute this drum major. I salute this brother in Christ. I salute his work for the bettering, not just of his race, but of all Americans, all people. I know that I am certainly better for his words and labors.
[Photo from bio.com]