“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36)
THE REV. DR. KING - AMAZING EXAMPLE FOR US
When I was 10-1/2 years old - and I believe all the way through high school - my bedroom was populated with pictures of my sports heroes. They were mostly baseball players - Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Pete Rose (Hey, this was before he bet on baseball, and my name was Pete, too!), and Billy Williams. There were a few football players, too. I remember posters of Gale Sayers and Paul Warfield. But I also was living in Charleston, South Carolina, and I remember watching the NBC nightly news on a regular basis with my parents. I was aware - as aware as I could be as a white, privileged 10-year-old boy at the time - of the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. I had some awareness of the sit-ins and the bus boycotts, the firehoses and the police dogs and the beatings, church bombings and unsolved murders, many people going to jail, and riots, too.. At that young age, I think I recognized that Dr. King was amazingly courageous, spellbinding as a preacher and public speaker, and so determined to speak to all of American society as he worked for justice. Admittedly, much of this sunk in for me at a deeper level later on, well after Dr. King was killed, when I read a biography of his life and one particular book of his sermons, Strength to Love, that had a profound influence on me when I was serving as a Peace Corp Volunteer in the 1980’s. I didn’t have a poster of Dr. King on my wall when I was ten, and I don’t have one on my wall at home now. But I can tell you this: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has had a much bigger influence on my life than Willie Mays or Hank Aaron or Pete Rose ever did! Those three baseball legends made me want to become a professional baseball player. Dr. King inspired me - and still inspires me - to be a man of character, a man of faith, a man of courage, a man who works for justice, a man who loves and prays for and forgives his enemies, a man who works for peace and practices non-violence, a man who sees and responds to the needs of the poor, a man who might inspire others though his preaching. If I could demonstrate any of those traits at 25% of the level that Dr. King did, then perhaps I will have inspired someone else to be the kind of follower of Jesus that Dr. King was.
The Episcopal Church has a book for remembering our “saints”. It used to be called Lesser Feasts and Fasts. More recently the name of the book has been changed to Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (The Church Pension Fund, 2010). April 4 has been set aside as the day to remember Martin Luther King, Jr., “Civll Rights Leader and Martyr.” Today is the 50th anniversary of his assassination. One of the readings selected for us, as we remember Dr, King, is the one quoted above. Doesn’t it seem fitting? (In case you want to look them up, the other readings selected are Genesis 37:17b-20, Psalm 77:11-20, and Ephesians 6:10-20.). Surely Dr. King lived out Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain” from Luke, the companion to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. Love your enemies? Check. Do good to those who hate you? Check. Bless those who curse you? Check. Pray for those who abuse you? Check. Do to others as you would have them do to you? Check. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other one, too? Check.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - prophet, preacher, pastor, husband, father, civil rights leader, dreamer, worker for justice, faithful servant of the Lord, friend of the poor.
“From its earliest days the Church has rejoiced to recognize and commemorate those faithful departed who were extraordinary or even heroic servants of God and of God’s people for the sake, and after the example, of their Savior Jesus Christ. By this recognition and commemoration, their devoted service endures in the Spirit, even as their example and fellowship continue to nurture the pilgrim Church on its way to God.” (Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints, p. ix)
I suggest to you that if you are looking around for a heroic servant of God to model your life after, look no further than Dr. King.