Today. It was 50 years ago today that the assassin’s bullet found Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in an effort to silence him. It was 50 years ago today that those who opposed the civil rights movement and all that it stood for thought it had ended. But it was 50 years ago today that the movement had only just begun.
Today … yes, today … justice is still not realized. Today the African American male still walks in fear that they will be gunned down for holding onto their cell phone. Today we still watch the economic injustice that plagues our communities where the African American with a graduate degree will likely earn less than a white high school drop out. Today if we look at leadership in government and church and throughout our culture and, if we look closely, we should be startled by its whiteness … not to mention its maleness.
What is interesting is that, in my devotional reading for today, the scripture text was based on Acts 4:32-35 (CEB):
The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common.The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all.There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales,and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need.
Sadly, the writer failed to catch that today is the day to talk about the Beloved Community, the community of Dr. King dreams. The beloved community is the place where people are not judged by the color of their skin or their sexual orientation or anything else that would sort us into any “us and them” relationship. The community of Dr. King’s dreams is a community like the one described in Acts. Those who have resources are not considered better or more privileged than those who do not have resources. The beloved community is the place where we live out such radical notions that the greatest are made the least and the least are made the greatest and where the master becomes the slave and the slave becomes the master. It is a community where we celebrate all contributions, no matter how small, as authentic gifts that build up our shared community.
It is so hard right now not to rail against our culture … our leaders … our church … THE church … for failing to create this community. I’ve said it before that the church comprised of people of privilege will tend to misread Matthew 25:40:
Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’
When I ask, “Who is Christ in this story?” the answer I invariably get is the people who are doing the good things are being the “hands and feet of Christ.” The problem here, you see, is that I tend to be a bit more of a literalist than most people imagine.The text literally says that when you have done these things, you have done them to Jesus. The “least of these brothers and sisters of mine” … those devoid of privilege … those who we so easily cast aside … those who are invisible to us … those who we justify as being somehow “bad” when they are subjected to racial profiling … THESE PEOPLE ARE CHRIST TO US! Not the other way around..
So friends, if we want unity with Jesus … if we want Jesus to be in our churches or in our neighborhoods or in our homes … then perhaps we should find the people whom Jesus describes and invite Jesus to be with us. And maybe instead of dragging them into our places of comfort and privilege, what would happen if we just went to where they were?
The beloved community is found down the streets that scare us. It is found in the schools our state wants to forget. It is found in the faces of those who struggle daily to make ends meet. And it isn’t as far from you as you think.
So today I will open my eyes. Today I will make every effort to honor the legacy of Dr. King by owning my own complicity for injustice. Today I will be honest about my own privilege and seek in every way possible to let it go. Today I will ask God to lead me to the promised land … to show me just one thing I can do to help create and live into the beloved community.