Written by Steven Liechty
Anthony B. Robinson
"No, 'if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - Romans 12: 9 - 21
I've noticed an odd thing in my part of the country (the Northwest) about Martin Luther King Jr. Day. People either don't know or don't acknowledge that King was a Christian. It's completely overlooked. There is little acknowledgment that King was a religious man and a religious leader. The "Rev." is dropped in favor of "Dr." The religious identity is forsaken for "civil rights leader." King is remembered as a generic great person but not a follower of Jesus.
What's up with that? Maybe people think that saying that King was a Christian, a preacher no less, would somehow be divisive? Maybe people don't want to acknowledge that Christianity is, or can be, a powerful and potent force for good. Sometimes it seems that the media and the academics are invested in the idea that "Christian" means right-wing bigot. I don't know.
I do know that the truth that King taught and lived was deeply Christian. It had a cross at the center. King taught, as Paul does in today's reading, a radical and revolutionary truth: that evil can be, and in the end is, overcome only by good. In teaching this, King invited those he led and influenced to embrace a new way of being in the world. Victims were transformed into victors. The powerless became people of amazing power. Evil really was overcome with good. If we cannot look beyond Martin Luther King Jr. to the cross to which his life pointed and witnessed, our remembrance will be superficial and misleading. Moreover, we will have missed the challenge to us today, to live in a radically new and a different way, the way of overcoming evil with good.
I give thanks today for Martin Luther King Jr. and for the faith that inspired him and which he lived. Let that faith and truth continue to disturb and to challenge me and us all. Amen.
Anthony B. Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul's Letters to Timothy for a New Day, and he is also the author of Book of Exodus: A God is still speaking Bible Study. Read his weekly reflections on the current lectionary texts at www.anthonybrobinson.com by clicking on Weekly Reading.