We live in a world of rich diversity.
I’ve got friends from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, experiences and cultures. What I love about all of my friends is that they’re different from me.
If I spent time with just me for long, I’d get bored and lonely. My personal dysfunctions would escalate dramatically.
If I just hung out with people like me, one or more of us would be superfluous.
Different is good.
As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’ve become more aware that racism isn’t always an overt response.
It’s a heart attitude. Against different.
Not just because someone is different from me in the color of their skin, the way they speak, their style of living or how they worship.
They don’t do things my way.
More than a little arrogant and entitled, wouldn’t you say?
Having had the opportunity to visit Atlanta and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, I’ve thought a lot about how we treat those different from us.
And I’ve come to appreciate more about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
He wasn’t perfect. None of us are.
But he was a passionate man, caring about the rights of all people. That we all, created in God’s image, need to be treated with dignity and respect.
He looked at it this way: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
We’ve all got different ways of choosing to live. Of making this life work with what we have. Of providing for those we love and trying to enjoy the time we’ve been given.
None of that changes because of the circumstances of our births, our backgrounds, our belongings. We long for dignity, respect.
Dr. King was a man who valued people, in all their diversity and perspectives. Knowing that we live together, he saw the need to choose to engage with each other. Helping each other become better than we can be alone. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
We callously throw words around today that speak more about “me” than “we”. “Entitled” points to us deserving what we’ve not earned. “Tolerance” speaks to attitudes of endurance. At a distance.
What Dr. King was trying to convey was the choice to love, not automatically hate. Hate is easy. To choose to love is to choose to accept.
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
Dr. King lived by the gospel of Jesus. Knowing we won’t inherently and consistently choose what is right and just apart from a relationship with Him.
Because Dr. King wasn’t of the majority culture, it cost him more to choose love. He fought those of his own culture who wanted to choose violence to demand equality. He fought the majority culture who didn’t want their lives affected by equality.
He wasn’t deterred from what was important.
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
A genuinely wise choice. Which begs the question.
What will we choose to stick with?