Monday, January 21, 2013

M.L.King's Letter from Birmingham Jail

“Letter From Birmingham Jail”
April 16, 1963

This famous letter from Martin Luther King, Jr, to Alabama Clergy. This letter was an answer to a letter sent to Dr King by these clergy.
I have taken excerpts from the letter demonstrating two points:
1.  Answering the question why he would break the law by declaring some man-made laws as evil, e.g., segregation laws, requiring Christians to non-violently to disobey them and declaring the evil nature of segregation.
2.  Declaring that the church must reclaim its rightful role as conscience to the ruling authorities (Ephesians 3:10) or be relegated to the rank of a social club.

“How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I-it” relationship for an “I-thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? “
. . .
“There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.” But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests.
“Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.”
If we agree with Dr. King that segregation is sin, then you and I must confess that sin and repent of it.  If we want to see the church have its rightful place as a moral compass in society, we must end our hypocritical segregation in the body of Christ.
After repentance and confession, we need to be intentional in ridding ourselves of this sin.  
Intentionally invite someone of a different race to church with you.  
Intentionally add music that is more inclusive:  Black Churches add the old hymns that are familiar to whites; white churches, add a praise team with a guitar and drums.  
Intentionally make others feel welcome.
Did you experience the largeness of God’s church tonight, when you  heard Chinese Christians singing worship songs?  Diversity is the cure for segregation.  
Let us take Dr. King’s dream to the next level in our generation.