A Modern Epistle

Last time I talked about prophetic voices.

I mentioned how many times I’ve read Dr. King’s Letter From A Birmingham Jail – without really listening. This morning I read it again.

He was arrested during a nonviolent march – for parading without a permit. In response to white pastors who published an article criticizing his actions as “unwise and untimely,” Dr. King wrote a modern epistle on toilet paper and in newspaper margins,

You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being.

Dr. King’s white friends wanted peace and quiet. His response explained that peace is not simply the absence of tension. True peace can only exist in the presence of justice.

No justice. No peace. Sound familiar?

Dr. King never advocated violence, just as no responsible person condones rioting, looting, or any other form of violence against people or property. Nonviolence, however, doesn’t mean standing quietly in the face of injustice. Jesus didn’t do that. He managed to offend everyone in power by intentionally confronting oppressive, unjust systems.

When we see injustice, we’re supposed to raise a ruckus.

A friend told me this week that scripture says more than 2.500 times we’re to care about justice. In the kingdom, that’s not about punishment or retribution, it’s about setting things right. It’s about taking seriously Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as is is in heaven.

Those aren’t just nice words. When He was asked how we should pray, Jesus told you and me to seek His kingdom and His will right here, right now.

We don’t have to engage in the false choice of “law & order” or chaos. Jesus says there’s another way, a better way. But we must be ready, because His way comes with a cost. Justice isn’t free. It’s certainly not the easy thing.

It’s just the right thing.

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