Thanks to an article on The Huffington Post I was led to Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King's Love in Action sermon. It's an amazing sermon.
We remember Dr. King as a civil rights leader but he was first and foremost a Baptist Minister. And he may have been preaching to Baptists, but to me, he speaks to us all. And in Love in Action, Dr. King wonderfully deconstructs Jesus's words on the cross: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do," in a way relevant to us all.
Dr. King starts with a discussion of forgiveness as the essential message of Jesus's teachings. Forgiveness, along with compassion and love, are what are missing most. Our human nature, being what it is, we seek revenge rather than forgiveness. Or when we do forgive, it comes too late. Dr. King also describes the act of forgiveness, as that. An act. It's active not passive. It's something we ought do. In typical King style with his masterful use of English he says,
"How often are our lives characterized by a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds!"
Dr. King lived a half-century before our current environment of politics via grudge match or a congress resembling a pre-school sand box, but his words resonate as much today as they did then in the midst of the abomination of segregation.
Dr. King then moves to the second part of Jesus's words: for they know not what they do. Dr. King contrasts the environment of hatred with one based in ignorance. Of blindness. People are, he says, by nature good, but through our blindness we fail to see the truth. We are called to open our eyes and not be blind to nature and new knowledge and facts. How true his words sound to me today when I think of our current debates on the environment, gun control, or the economy.
In the end, "only goodness can drive out evil and love can conquer hate." I like this. And to be so bold as to suggest an edit to Dr. King's words, I would substitute the word "hate" with the word "fear." I believe behind the hate in us lies fear. Hate covers our fear and allows us to hide from the fear and move forward, however awkwardly. Thus we choose hatred as a mask to our fear. But only removing the underlying fear can hate dissipate.
And the key to overcoming fear is through love. At least that is how I now see it.
So today give yourself about 20 minutes to read Dr. King's sermon. You can google for it. And you can also find the scanned document at the King Center website.