A couple of months ago I had to give a talk on leadership to a large group of teenagers throughout Brooklyn and Queens. I thought about it for months and I came across a talk by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called "The Drum Major Instinct" and it was incredible. It was a prophetic message that still effects everyone one of us today. This talk had such a profound effect on me that I have begun to take a serious study on Dr. King and his life.
The intent of Christianity
Across my research and studies I came across this book which Corretta Scott King describes as:
"'If there is one book Martin Luther King, Jr. has written that people consistently tell me has changed their lives, it is Strength to Love.'
So wrote Coretta Scott King. She continued: 'I believe it is because this book best explains the central element of Martin Luther King, Jr.' s philosophy of nonviolence: His belief in a divine, loving presence that binds all life.'"
I really believe that this book, Strength to Love, is the best book on Christianity I have ever read. I believe what happens to many people is that we get stuck in the theology and we forget about loving the person in front of us. Dr. King takes the message of Jesus and puts it in real time, which is what Jesus did as well. For all the other books I have come across that keep theology in the realm of discussions, this book makes you say how can we live this out today not just talk about it. I believe this book is the real intent of what Christianity is supposed to become.
Who Is My Neighbor?
Many of us know the story of the Good Samaritan but maybe a better way of looking at this story would be to update the conversation that sparked this story. So one day a Biblical Scholar approached Jesus and asked, "Jesus, what does the Bible say I need to do to go to heaven?" Jesus looked at them and said, "What do you think it says to do?" The Biblical Scholar quickly responds, "Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and your neighbor as yourself." Jesus says "You are correct, now go do it."
Then the Biblical Scholar says, "And who is my neighbor?" But what they are really asking is, "Who isn't my neighbor?" The Biblical Scholar was looking for a debate, they wanted to pick a fight and talk about all the people who are not their neighbor, to talk about those who work for the government, about anyone who is from a different country, about anyone outside their race, about anyone outside their religion, about anyone side their gender, pretty much anyone who doesn't look the same way exact way and believe the same exact things is not their neighbor and does not deserve their love.
And Dr. King says, "The lawyer was now taking up the cudgels of debate that might have turned the conversation into an abstract theological discussion. But Jesus determined not to be caught in the 'paralysis of analysis,' pulls the question from mid-air and places it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho."
Comfort and Convenience vs Change and Controversy
Jesus and Dr. King reminds us that we must not get lost in a debate when a person needs our help. For a Jewish person at that time the people they looked down to the most were the Samaritans. And in this story Jesus makes him the person who is living the right way not the priest or the Levite. The Samaritan is making his decision from a place of love not a place legalism. Dr. King knows that it can be difficult to help someone when it could cost us something more than just money, like reputation and respect. He says:
"I imagine that the first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: 'If I stop to help this man what will happen to me?' but by the very nature of his concern the Good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?' The good Samaritan engaged in a dangerous altruism."
With all these laws and executive orders that are passed are we even asking the question, What will happen them? What will happen to people losing health insurance, people being sent to detention camps, people separated from their families especially their children. Are we even asking what will happen to them?
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy"- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.