Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church. The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns. Your rational feedback is welcomed.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.
DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY
Neither Secularized nor Sanitized but the Real MLK
Exodus 5:1 (NIV)
Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”
Though secularism removes any hint of God from the public square, that’s difficult to do on a day when the work of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) is fondly remembered. Apparently, that’s not the case for the hardcore secularists who, according to Stephen Carter, professor of law at Yale, treat MLK’S religious calling “as a relatively unimportant aspect of his career, if indeed, it is mentioned at all.” Consider what Christopher Hitchens, author of God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, says: “In no real as opposed to nominal sense, then, was [MLK] a Christian.” How so? Hitchens, who categorically classifies the Bible as a book spewing of violence, reasons that King couldn’t be a Christian since he wasn’t given to violence. Sam Harris, another famed atheist, writes, “We simply do not need religious ideas to motivate us to live ethical lives.” Whereas I refuse to dignify Hitchen’s illogic with a response, Harris’ view, in contrast, has its merits (see below)—but not in the case of MLK.
Indisputably, King, a man of extraordinary faith and courage, attained his vision from God: “Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” In “God Is Marching On” speech in Montgomery, Alabama, he quoted Micah 6:8, “Act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” to describe the kind of people whom the voters should elect to represent them—so much for the intellectual honesty of secularists.
On the other hand, there are those who, while stressing the heroics of MLK, sanitize his life to such a degree that it borders on the cult of personality. It’s now a matter of public record that he wasn’t always faithful to his wife, and Boston University had considered (Time, Nov. 1990), but ultimately decided not to revoke King’s doctorate degree, despite finding that parts of his dissertation were plagiarized. Nevertheless, I agree with Time article’s conclusion: “Even though the revelation may tarnish King’s reputation, they hardly diminish his courageous and inspirational accomplishments in helping to achieve racial justice for millions of black American.” Anyone who has seen an old footage showing MLK and his fellow marchers never wavering from their just cause, even when batons and fire hoses were used to halt them, would agree. Don’t be, then, too surprised at God using MLK in spite of him, not necessarily because of him; look no further than King David, erstwhile adulterer and murderer, for proof. Subsequently, God receives all the glory, and thus, we are inspired to place our faith on Him, not on men.
Of course, we are far from being “a nation where [we] will not be judged by the color of [our] skin but by the context of [our] character.” In fact, the situation in America has gotten more complicated as class now affects individual’s future prospect, argued Harvard sociologist William J. Wilson, as much as race. That is, the middleclass folks (whether black, white or yellow) judge those who aren’t included in their class more by where they live, what they do, and the level of their education than simply the color of one’s skin. Either way, both racism and classism originate from the same source: a proud heart.
So, on this day, as we observe the birthday of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., an imperfect servant of God whose courageous vision carved out a path toward freedom for the oppressed (whether racial or class), let us “not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Rom. 12: 16).
Prayer: Father, You created all ethnic (ethnos) groups and the people therein, and we have all fallen short of Your glory. It was for us that You sent your Son to do what no human government can do: forgiving our sins and making us righteous in Christ. May You use my life and church to heal the nations (ethnos). Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 17
LUNCH BREAK STUDY
Read John 8:32-6: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 [The Jews] answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Romans 2:14-5: (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)
Question to Consider
- Martin Luther King was inspired by Moses, who boldly demanded freedom from Pharaoh (“Set my people free”). What kind of freedom was this?
- While the freedom that Moses sought was important and certainly was part of God’s will, Jesus expanded that freedom during his ministry to another—a greater freedom. What was Christ offering?
- The atheist Sam Harris says that “we simply do not need religious ideas to motivate us to live ethical lives.” Does Romans 2:14-5 lend support to his view?
- The freedom that Moses sought after was political and social freedom.
- The freedom that Christ offered then, and continue to offer today, is spiritual freedom; that is, being liberated from Satan’s rule, thanks to Christ who destroyed “the devil’s work” (1 Jn. 3:8; Heb. 2:14-15)
- God’s law written on human hearts is universal, meaning it is applicable to atheists as well as to Buddhists. While the conscience may not work very well, due to man’s sinful nature and unhealthy environment, God, nevertheless, places it there so that “you, . . . though evil, know how to give good gifts to your children” (Mt. 7:11). It is not for salvation but to maintain some semblance of social order and security for the wellbeing of all.
Let’s spend this moment praying for a true racial reconciliation to occur in America. Pray for a revival to break out among the men in blue across the nation. Pray for the leaders of African-American community, that they may seek God’s wisdom and heart even as they cry out for justice and fairness.