Written in respect and honor of Martin Luther King & his legacy.
Amid the racial unrest that’s been taking place in our nation since the death of George Floyd, questions concerning the real progress of Blacks since slavery and even the Civil Rights Movement have been a topic of discussion in black circles. While some say that nothing has changed, which I try to veer away from for the reasons I explain in a previous post, others say it’s time to take more drastic and even militant measures. Videos of Blacks striking back along with signs and shirts reading that “We are not our ancestors...” highlight the thoughts of many who say that if Blacks are pushed in this day and age, unlike those in the past, we will fight back and it won’t be pretty. Of course, this brings Martin Luther King’s methods under fire and subtly suggests that he and his followers were not aggressive or bold enough to do what needed to be done to secure Blacks their freedom. However, on this day that we recognize MLK's legacy, I want to show that not only did King’s methods work, they reveal that even though confusing, how God's ways are better and higher than our own.
We often attribute non-violence movements to the legacy of Martin Luther King but actually this idea comes from God. With this in mind, it shouldn't be surprising that many would have problems with His way of doing things as they often appear backward to us. To save humanity, He came here to die. In order to gain life, the Bible says we must lose it. And to attain the things that we want most in life, we are instructed not to seek them but instead to first seek God. These contradicting examples, among many others, not only sound counterintuitive to most but appear to take us in a completely different direction than where we want to go. This causes many to be confused and skeptical of God's ways, and that's if they don't lose faith in them altogether.
But the reason God's ways seem wrong and backward to us is that we are only able to judge and see the world through our five senses and whatever little knowledge we've gained in our short experience of life. Viewing things from this narrow perspective automatically lends itself to incomplete information and places our focus more on what we can see, feel, and etc., which is motivate by our needs and desires. Such thinking most often produces fast and easy solutions that give us a sense of gratification or relief but often have little to do with actually solving our problems. With this thinking, the world rotates from one whack-a-mole solution to the next, all the while creating more problems as we claim to be cleaning them up.
However, God sees things from a massively broader and deeper perspective, along with unfathomable knowledge and information. He sees beyond our present, unjust past, needs, and feelings. In fact, His view stretches across eternity and includes the universal laws and spiritual principles that our very existence was founded upon. With this view, He can see what is happening on the surface and also the root of problems underneath. He can see how the problems we face are related to the past and also how, if unresolved, they will affect the future. This makes Him able to offer precise tailor made solutions that not only fix the problem, but eradicate its ability to continue spreading.
So often, our way of doings things clashes with God because while we are unknowingly looking for incomplete or quick fixes, which includes simply expressing our rage, God aims to solve our issues eternally. He doesn't just seek to save and secure justice for just Blacks, but for the entire world. Unfortunately such solutions require more time, effort, energy, and sacrifice than what most are willing to pay which is why we are so quick to label them as wrong.
But, God doesn't tell us to love our enemies simply to spread love in the world (Mat 5:44). He doesn't ask us to turn the other cheek just to be abused in this life because we will reap paradise in the next (Mat. 5:39). He tells us this because not returning violence for violence and evil for evil will reveal the source of the problem which is the heart and mind of those who perpetrate evil. And revealing the source produces the best chance we have of actually changing things.
Returning a hit to someone who hits me—which is an easy, immediate, and not well thought out response to a problem--does nothing to address why the hitting started in the first place. In fact, in God's understanding of our fallen condition and eternity, He knows that hitting only results in more hitting, and as the saying goes, before it's all over, the whole world will simply end up blind. Nevertheless, even in a blind world, the likelihood of the real problem being addressed is slim to none. And with such being the case, after everyone's vision is gone, people will commence to taking fingers and toes. This is how problems don't just continue, but when not thoroughly addressed, they get worse.
To Build or Destroy
But by asking us to refrain from simply functioning on a superficial level of quick fixes and the relief that comes from retaliating on our enemies in kind, God is inviting us to look at things through His eyes. He is asking us not to be consumed by the condition we find ourselves in but to grab hold of the knowledge, power, and insight He offers to defeat and rise above it. He is sharing with us what it takes to free not just Blacks, but to loosen the chains that all too often bind human hearts and minds. He is unveiling the transforming power that can come from simply allowing people to see themselves.
When people are fighting, it's easy to loose sight of who is in error. Also, fighting rarely fixes anything but instead prolongs and escalates problems. Not only does harm and loss of life increase but the destruction it causes ripples throughout family's and time. If anyone desires to actually fix a problem, fighting is never a viable option. However, if one person is doing all the hitting while the other is restraining and refraining from returning a lick, it shines an inexcusable light on who actually has the problem. It takes any question of justification and sets it square in the lap for perpetrators to have to answer.
In this way, when the newly invented television broadcasted images of powerful hoses, vicious dogs, and over the top brutality inflicted upon non-violent men, women, and even children for simply sitting at lunch counters and the like, it made the underlying evil of racism and white supremacy hard to deny. Not only did this put pressure on those in power to take action to cover America’s shame, but it held up a mirror to a nation that had made the absence of humanity normal and acceptable. Such images, although viewed by some as weakness up until today, garnered the most significant changes for America and especially Black America to date. MLK's insistence on applying God's method of a non-violent approach is the very reason we Blacks have many of the rights we enjoy today.
Instead of fostering more hate and destruction, non-violence made silent and smothered voices bold, loud, and hard to ignore. It invigorated blacks to reclaim their dignity, even forcing many whites to take a hard look at themselves and inevitably join with black voices to demand change. It also gathered support from around the globe to stand up for what is right and bound people together in unity, hope, and love that shines in direct opposition to humanity's greatest evils. And even today these voices continue to grow causing the protest of 2020 to become one of the largest in American history. Non-violence echo's through time as it continues to inspire a nation and the world in ways that reminds us all of the deep and intrinsic value of our mutual humanity.
Say what you want about non-violence, no militant based group has ever been able to make even a 10th of these claims. Indeed, non-violence doesn’t offer us the quick fixes our short-sighted nature prefers and denies us the temporary relief of simply lashing out, what it does offer is something more than violence can ever do. Non-violence is not just a means of protest, but it fosters a force that restores life and hope to our world. Through non-violence it becomes clear that true power doesn't come from the ability to tear down or destroy but to rebuild and restore.
It's Your Choice
I know that some will say, as I have heard them say, that if non-violence was so great, why are blacks still being killed and discriminated against today? My reply to that is the only reason anyone would expect a 350-year-old problem to be resolved within 14 short years is simply out of a desire to avoid putting the same blood, sweat, and tears that our ancestors did.
If they got us this far on the sacrifices of others, when not even 150 years ago, we were still slaves, and a little more than 70 years ago, we didn’t have the rights we have today, it is only right for us to continue the fight for future generations without complaining that there is something unfair about it. What is fair is that we handover a better world to those who will come after us in the same way it was handed down to us. And that we don't fumble the progress that's been made simply to express the rage that robs us of seeing a bigger picture. The question of which method to use boils down to how you answer this question, do you want to use your life and anger to heal or to destroy? Even God himself says, it's your choice.
Stephanie K. was born and raised in Chicago, IL. She has a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and various coaching certifications. (read more)
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