If you think that Martin Luther King Jr.’s message was about racial equality I think, perhaps, you missed the point. Don’t get me wrong. He was certainly a warrior for racial equality! Ensuring equality was central to his life’s work. But his dream was so much bigger than that.
He dared to dream of a day when we would truly love all of our fellow humans.
One of the most powerful sermons I ever heard was preached by Rev. Mark Spaw. He shared a simple story about buying groceries. He said, “I was at the store not long ago and I put all of my items on the belt so I could pay. The cashier asked, ‘do you prefer paper or plastic?’
‘Put everything in plastic bags, please.’ I responded.
The cashier began scanning the items and bagging them and then she came to the laundry soap and asked, ‘do you want this in a bag?’
‘Yes. Please put all of the items in plastic bags,’ I told her again.
She put the soap in a bag and continued until she came to the milk. ‘Do you want your milk in a bag?’
‘Yes, please,’ I told her and I held out my hands to show the belt and everything that was on it. ‘Please put all of the items in plastic bags.'”
He went on to talk about how we have a very hard time wrapping our minds around the concept of, “all.”
When Dr. King talked about us loving all of the people that share this planet with us I think he meant ALL of them.
Every. Single. One.
You may think, “But what about that one guy who….”
That guy, especially.
Dr. King showed love toward those who worked with him and befriended him and helped him but he went beyond that. What made him extraordinary… what was inspiring about him… the reason we have set aside a day to remember his remarkable life was that he loved those who hated him. He loved his jailors. He loved the ones who mocked him. He loved the people who worked against him. He loved them all.
One of his famous quotes referenced The Parable of The Good Samaritan.
If you don’t know the story, it comes from the Bible – Luke chapter 10, verses 25-37.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Loving our neighbor isn’t a reference to a warm fuzzy feeling that we get when we see the person who lives next door. Loving our neighbor means being willing to take action to make a better world for every single person on the planet.
ALL of them.
I truly believe that every person is responsible for the well-being of every other person.
My greed and selfishness hurt you. My carelessness and lack of responsiblity put a burden on the shoulders of others.
But when I can show true love and kindness, when I can cast aside my own desires for a moment and put the needs of another in front of my own then I have the power to transform the world into something beautiful… something like the dream envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr.
Love is not a feeling. Love is an action.
Love is feeding the hungry, and empowering them to feed themselves.
Love is nursing the sick and rooting out the causes of sickness.
Love is comforting the mourning and seeking ways to prevent senseless tragedy.
Love is caring for our planet and finding ways to ensure its bounty for future generations.
Love is taking the time to teach a child and making the effort to overcome our own ignorance.
Love is having the respect to listen with an open mind to the thoughts of others.
Love is asking yourself, every morning, “what can I do today to help someone else?” before you ask yourself, “how can I make my own life better today?”
On this day of remembrance, don’t just think of a man who helped a nation see that people of various ethnicities deserve equality. Instead, learn from the example of a man who believed that the greatest hope for our human race was for us all to learn to truly love one another.
***WAIT! THERE’S MORE!***
In preparing this post I must have read a hundred quotes and speeches and bits of writing from Dr. King. I found myself especially struck by his views on education and creative expression. I wanted to share them, but they didn’t fit very well with the theme of this post and so this is a rare two-post day.
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!