Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 21, 2013

Excerpt from Romans 12:9-21

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Talitha Arnold

Today's passage from Paul's Letter to the Romans could be the core of an Inauguration speech. Now more than ever we need to hear the Apostle's injunction to "hold fast to what is good," "do not repay evil for evil. . . (or) be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

That injunction was also at the core of the American leader whose birthday we remember this day. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life trying to "overcome evil with good." Lord knows, he and others in the Civil Rights movement experienced evil firsthand. But even after being set upon by police dogs and water cannons, the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of the Birmingham church, Rev. King and others held fast to the commitment to overcome evil with good.

It was a commitment deeply rooted in their Christian faith. As Rev. King wrote in Stride Toward Freedom, "a basic philosophy guided the movement. . . referred to variously as nonviolent resistance, noncooperation, and passive resistance." But in the early days, he continued, "none of these expressions was mentioned. The phrase most often heard was Christian love. It was the Sermon on the Mount, rather than a doctrine of passive resistance, that initially inspired the Negroes of Montgomery to dignified social action. It was Jesus of Nazareth that stirred the Negroes to protest with the creative weapon of love."

"Nonviolent resistance had emerged as the technique of the movement," Rev. King explained, "while love stood as the regulating idea. In other words, Christ furnished the spirit and motivation, while Ghandi furnished the method."

We still need that spirit and motivation.  We also still need what Rev. King called "sense enough and courage and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate." In a word, having the sense, courage, and morality enough to overcome evil with good. May that be our prayer as a nation this day.

Prayer

Thank you, God, for the witness of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and all who have given their lives and are giving their lives to justice and peace. Bless our President on this Inauguration Day and bless our country with a renewed commitment to overcome evil with your love, so that the only weapon we wield is, in Rev. King's words, "the creative weapon of love." Amen.

About the Author
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Worship for Vital Congregations, published by The Pilgrim Press.

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