Dr. King believed that justice and our faith in God required us to treat all human beings as equals, even if it meant breaking the laws of our land in order to do so. He was willing to break those laws as well as suffer the consequences of breaking those laws by going to jail. He also believed that human beings could be better than they were.
I sense that this day has often been considered by some people, white and black, to be a “Black Holiday,” and I believe that when and where this is the case, we all lose both the benefit and the blessings of the day. I would go so far as to say it is a lost opportunity: an opportunity to help all Americans recognize that the killing of police officers and of unarmed black people are both unacceptable in our nation; an opportunity to continually tear down the walls of fear between the races and to build bridges of understanding. It is not an easy thing, but it just may change how we see other people, and maybe even how we see ourselves.
This is why I am so proud of my current home town of Wetumpka, Alabama, where on Sunday and Monday of the Holiday Weekend the city celebrated what my Presbyterian friend, Jonathan Yarboro calls the “beloved community.” On Sunday, January 18, “a fellowship of local lay and clergy leaders joined with the City of Wetumpka and the Porch Band of Creek Indians to host a celebration and remembrance of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” (from a column in the Wetumpka Herald by the Rev. Jonathan Yarboro). Over three hundred citizens joined together to celebrate the life and legacy of a man who proclaimed the beloved community to the world. This beloved community is, of course, a gift of God, and we all have the possibility of living within this precious gift. Speakers on that day were both black and white, and as mentioned earlier one of the groups which sponsored the event was the Porch Band of Creek Indians.
Monday’s national holiday was for many in Wetumpka the opportunity to do more than just a day off from work and School. It was an opportunity for many to “celebrate the life of a prophetic figure whose witness calls us to recognize the intentions of the creator of everything.”(The Wetumpka Herald, Jan. 21. from a column by the Rev. Jonathan Yarboro).
If we can refocus our attention on days which celebrate the lives of people like Martin Luther King, Jr., who preached love and commitment and not fear, if we can see the commitment to endure whatever must be endured in order to bring about healing of relationships, then we can find ways to replace fear with love, with hope, and with the respect that will allow each of us to see all people as children of God.
Then we might just be able to sing with honesty the song so many of us learned in Sunday School:
“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world: red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”