Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a true child of God. He was a messenger of peace in a time of grave conflict. His influence and stamp on the civil rights movement was indelible. Had it not been for him, there would have been much shedding of blood. Dr. King provided a non-violent outlet for the anger and frustration that had reached a boiling point among the African American community. Imagine where we’d be without him? Imagine where South Africa would be without Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu?
Unfortunately, a few generations of white people, largely for economic reasons, forgot that we are all from the same human father, Adam, and the same Father, God. The oppression was fueled by a false ideology that a whole race of people were thought to be sub-human. It was unforgivable, and yet Dr. King and Nelson Mandela were symbols of forgiveness. They knew we must get beyond the lies that fueled inhumane treatment and its violent response. Violence begets violence. How will the chain ever be broken? These great men knew it would only be through the high road of peace and forgiveness, not the low road of payback. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth only creates a race of half-blind toothless people.
We are in a time of great anger in America today. This is an election year, and so far, it’s the angriest voices that are getting all the attention. Those seeking peace, cooperation and common ground are thought of as being weak and ineffective. Perhaps by the time we reach the actual election, cooler heads will prevail, but right now I’m worried about this country. Here’s why: If Dr. King showed up in one of these political debates for EITHER party, and stood for what he stood for 50 years ago on all of the big issues of the day, he would be laughed off the stage. This is why I’m worried about America.
The answer to this anger has to start with each one of us. We have to decide we are going to break the chain. Decide that you are going to be a peacemaker. You are going to claim your part in creating conflict, and forgive others for their part in it.
I’m glad we have the holiday we had yesterday. I’m sad that more people, institutions and workplaces don’t observe it. I think it may be the most important holiday we have. It should force us all to think: How can I be a minister of peace in my world today? Where is there conflict in my life? Is it in my marriage? My family? My neighborhood? My church? My workplace? Maybe it’s the same old racial conflict raising its ugly head.
Be a peacemaker. Take the high road. Rise above the conflict. Find common ground. Link arms with the opposition. March through the hatred, the revenge, the retribution. Exercise forgiveness. In doing so, you will not be the weak one; you will be the strong one. Happy birthday, Dr. King.