To say it differently, I cannot comprehend the loathsome, abhorrent and detestable dislike of a person – or group of people – simply for their race, creed, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
Multiply that by a million for those who are followers of Christ.
If you are a Christian, and you pursue obedience to the Scripture out of love for God, then you cannot – no, you must not – hate simply because someone looks or believes differently than you do. We love because we are loved by God, in spite of our unholy ways.
The Sins of Ferguson
In Ferguson, Missouri, we are found wanting in our love for each other. And, much of the blame can rest squarely on the shoulders of the Reverend Al Sharpton. In his efforts to pursue justice, he has, yet again, ridden in with guns blazing on the horse of racism to capitalize on tragedy and lynch any and every person who does not pursue the Sharpton brand of “social justice.” His message is not intended for peace, but more violence. In his eyes, change comes, not because we hope in the gospel, but in fear and distrust.
Sharpton is a licensed minister. To my knowledge, he has never pastored a church or preached the gospel day-in and day-out. His critics have noticed, too. Joseph Farah writes, “The man is an utter disgrace and shame to his professed religion of Christianity…He is a professional race hustler and shakedown artist, not someone to be revered.”
I am intensely saddened by the events in Ferguson. The death of a young man, the behavior of all involved, and the culture that has created it and allowed it to happen. Yet, I’m not sure Sharpton sees the real tragedy. Sharpton wants to lead out in the process of justice. He wants change. The problem is, Sharpton’s need for self-promotion is greater than his love for the gospel and social justice. Instead of preaching the words of hope, comfort, and love found in the gospel, as a minister should, he spews blame and injustice on everyone involved.
Leading from the Gospel
In March, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, African Americans were seeking the right to vote and organized a non-violent protest march from Selma to Montgomery. The result that day, seen on national TV, is now known as “Bloody Sunday.”
The marchers made their way through Selma across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they faced a blockade of state troopers and local lawmen…who ordered the marchers to disperse. When they did not, Cloud ordered his men to advance. Cheered on by white onlookers, the troopers attacked the crowd with clubs and tear gas. Mounted police chased retreating marchers and continued to beat them.
Sound familiar? It should. In Ferguson, police have been criticized for the level of their response to the initial violence and protests. And Sharpton has capitalized on it, leading a march in New York City to protest the actions of police in the deaths of Eric Garner (NYC) and Michael Brown (Ferguson). Martin Luther King, Jr., though, responded much differently to the events of “Bloody Sunday.” Even though a federal district court judge had issued a restraining order prohibiting the march…
King proceeded to the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the afternoon of 9 March. He led more than 2,000 marchers, including hundreds of clergy who had answered King’s call on short notice, to the site of Sunday’s attack, then stopped and asked them to kneel and pray. After prayers they rose and turned the march back to Selma, avoiding another confrontation with state troopers and skirting the issue of whether to obey Judge Johnson’s court order.
In his wisdom, Rev. King obeyed the authorities and incited not defiance, but prayer. Here, a man of the Word sought to call attention to injustice by appealing not to the fear and anger and emotions, but to the highest power – the Almighty God.
A Model for Protests
This was not unusual for King. Though he was criticized for his belief in non-violent protests, King’s faith in God grounded him well as he led the nation for social justice and civil rights. In Letter from Birmingham Jail, King said:
I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
King goes on to lay out the methodology to help the nation focus on injustice. He says,
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying of the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of the gospel. It showed in his leadership. He was also a man of peace, and the world recognized that when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He will be remembered for all of time as a man who ushered in Civil Rights for African Americans, who ultimately gave the “final full measure of devotion” to a principle that was promised, not only in the Constitution of his nation, but in the gospel of his Savior, as well.
Al Sharpton would do well to remember Martin Luther King, Jr. If he can.