Eboo Patel always inspires me and makes me want to be a better Christian. When he spoke Tuesday night at Queens University in Charlotte, he told a story about Martin Luther King, Jr that I’ve been trying to find with no luck, so I’ll share the gist of it here.
It was the late 1950s/early 1960s and Dr. King was living in a violent and dangerous United States. His home had been bombed. I’ll type that again: His. Home. Had. Been. Bombed.
Crosses were burning and Jim Crow was alive and well. In 1963 a Birmingham church was bombed killing four young black girls. Our nation was on fire.
Dr. King was asked, “If you could live in any time in history, when would you live?” He pondered the thought of living in the time of Socrates or Plato imagining the amazing conversations he could have. He imagined being with the first followers of Jesus and what he could learn from them. He considered all the monumental times in history and what it would be like to be at the signing of the Declaration of Independence or at the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
But as tempting as those extraordinary periods of history would be, Dr. King said that he would most like to live in the time he was actually living. Even with the racial injustice, random cruelties, and national divisions he understood the particular time in which he lived to be the perfect opportunity to do good work.
As I write this, political divisions seem insurmountable and Twitter is not helping. The coronavirus is spreading. Among the opinion pieces in recent newspapers include:
- The Audacity of Hate by Thomas B. Edsall (NY Times)
- Virginia’s Gun-Control Defeat by The Editorial Board (WSJ)
- Congrats! You Dump 100 Plastic Bottles in Nature Each Year By Sergio Pecanha (Washington Post)
- Critics Warn School Shooter Drills May Be Doing More Harm Than Good: ‘They’re Becoming More Perverse and Obscene” By Peter Nickeas and Elyssa Cherney (Chicago Tribune)
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.
Nevertheless . . . it’s a great time to be an American Christian. God has blessed us with plenty of work to do for good. We have be handed a full platter of opportunities to fight hate with love and to fight gun violence with peace. We have countless opportunities to clean up the environment. We have countless opportunities to offer loving security to our children.
Yes, it will wear us out. Dr. King often looked tired, but he was never hopeless. I believe that God is calling each city and town to create an environment in which everyone created in God’s image can thrive. (People created in the image of God = all people.)
The world doesn’t have to be so ugly and broken. We can be the people who refuse to use social media to spew hate. We can be the people who see everyone – including our enemies – through the eyes of Christ. We can be the people who say no to everyday cruelties.
We have so many opportunities to love instead of hate today. Let’s make it today’s challenge: Love someone who makes you crazy. Love someone whose political views are the opposite of yours. Love someone you don’t understand. Or just try really hard not to hate them.
Images like the ones shown above are everywhere. It doesn’t have to be like this.