More Light. Less Heat.
On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before a quarter million people and delivered what has been hailed as the greatest speech ever given in the English language.
Toward the end of his speech, Mahalia Jackson, the internationally acclaimed Gospel singer, shouted, "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" That's when Dr. King departed from his prepared remarks and riffed on The Dream. That's the part of the speech most of us remember. And how could we forget so powerful a vision as the one Dr. King cast that day?
But there's another part of that speech you've probably never heard. Given where we are now, it may be one of the most important things he said.
"There is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."
Dr. King paid attention not just to the content of his dream, but to the conduct of the dreamers. He was courageous to envision a meaningful new reality. But he was just as concerned about how that vision was realized. In fact, it was Dr. King's insistence on creative non-violence that set his dream apart from others that were being offered at the time.
Given the destructive riots in American cities throughout the summer of 2020 and the shameful assault on the capital the first week of 2021, I'd say we have had more than a sip from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We have turned it bottom up and drained it. Sadly, that's about the only expression of bipartisanship we've seen. Neither Democrats nor Republicans can claim the high moral ground of dignity and discipline.
In this climate of bitterness, Christians have a responsibility to model a different way. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Love and pray for our enemies. He said we are the light of the world. That's what the world needs right now. More light. There's already too much heat.