As we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr this week and observe Human Relations Day in our congregations, once again we remember the vitally important call of Christ to love one another, and especially to include all of God’s children in the circle of God’s love.
In Luke 4 we read about Jesus’ conflict with his hometown friends at the synagogue of his childhood years. He had the audacity to remind the listeners that God was about the business of supporting foreign widows and healing Syrian army officials. He challenged the long-held illusion that God was only the God of the Jews and maintained instead that Jehovah was the God of all. The crowd turned on him at that moment, and had he had a near-miss with death that day (Luke 4:23-30).
Would we have joined the crowd that tried to toss Jesus off the cliff? Or would we agree with the Lord that God is going global with this love thing and that everyone is included in the circle of God’s care and concern? Fundamentally, that was the work of Dr. King’s movement, and still today the quest for equality is based on that precept.
Over the past few weeks I visited South Africa and toured the Apartheid museum in Johannesburg. Once again I felt awe at the atrocities committed against people simply because of the color of their skin and their class in society. My trip to South Africa was part of a jurisdictional event known as the Mission of Peace; and with me were 18 bright young people from our United Methodist churches.
I see hope as younger generations move forward into history. The youth I encountered on this trip have the advantage of learning about the history of these civil rights movements in the 20th century. They are not patient with prejudice, discrimination and bigotry. They are passionate about social justice and intentionally related to one another in socially responsible ways on the trip.
This gives me hope but only as long as we continue to teach these Christian concepts to each succeeding generation. This year as we celebrate Human Relations Day, King's memory and the global causes of peace, human dignity, freedom and equality, may we as the church vow once again to work harder for social justice and, by modeling it, to teach it to our children. That is truly making generations of disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.