by Dena Douglas Hobbs
Scripture passage: Matthew 5:43-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (NRSV)
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who [hurt] you.”
We set this day aside each year to honor the contribution of Martin Luther King Jr. to our world. King is often remembered for his strong leadership in the civil rights movement. Beyond that he has influenced how further social activists stand up and fight for social justice in the world. We cannot think of King without remembering his call for “justice to run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” We remember how he called us to a vision of a better world. We remind ourselves how he dreamt of a world where color was not a barrier that kept some people from having the same rights as others. Moreover, how he dreamt of a world where race would not keep people of different colors apart.
But as we bring to mind Martin Luther King Jr. on this day, let us not just remember his strong call for justice, but also the love for all people that lay at the root of this call.
The defining characteristic of King’s leadership in the civil rights movement was not that he pushed for change against unjust social practices, but that he did so with a strong stance of non-violence.
When I watch old video footage of marchers in Selma and other cities across the South, I am amazed at how protestors were able to stay peaceful in the face of vicious dogs, menacing police, and a group of people that quite honestly hated them. How did they keep their resolve without fighting back?
I think the secret to this is that at the heart of King’s motives was not a hatred for the ones who hurt others, but a God-given love. King knew that social discrimination and the separation of blacks was not just something that harmed the black community, but was a poison that hurt all of America, all of humankind. The civil rights movement was not just a movement to bring redemption and salvation to the black community, but to the white community as well.
Even when his enemies were spreading violence and hate, King kept a heart full of justice that was driven by love. For the truth is we need each other. The black children and white children on the red clay hills of Georgia both need each other equally, for God’s children were meant to be united together under the rays of our golden sun.
Do you have any enemies?
How do you feel about them?
Have you ever made friends with an old enemy? What did that feel like?
How can we grow our heart to love our personal enemies and those of a larger scale?
Pray for your enemies today. Maybe even try to do one good thing for your enemy’s well being today.
To learn more about Martin Luther King’s work in Selma, view https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fO6myxqqsGs.
To learn more about Martin Luther King’s life and the civil rights movement view
Holy God, we thank you for the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. Help us to have eyes to see not only the injustices of the world, but also the possibilities of redemption that lie ahead. Most of all God, we ask you to heal our hearts. Help us to let go of our anger at our enemies. Fill us instead with a Holy Love for all your people. Help us to speak your truth with not only courage, but also love. Amen.
Dena Douglas Hobbs is the author of the advent devotional Lighten the Darkness and writes weekly at Centering Down (www.denadouglashobbs.com). She lives with her husband and two children in the heart of Georgia.