When I was as smart as most fifth graders in 1965 in Montgomery, AL, two of my heroes were Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Most everyone I knew shared the feelings for the former.
But I didn’t tell anyone about the latter when he led a march in March from my birthplace in Selma to my hometown in Montgomery.
Dr. King was one of my heroes because he was a Baptist preacher like my daddy, a preacher’s kid like me, and he believed that everyone should be treated with respect and loved because we were children of the Most High. He taught that when someone hit you, don’t hit back, just like my daddy coached me in life. And so I didn’t, at least as best I can remember.
My daddy also taught me about a man named Jesus. And as I’ve grown older and become a preacher myself, I’ve realized just how radical this God Man Jesus was and is.
‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’
Wow. That is radical stuff.
So when I say from my 30+ years of ministry with persons who are single, married, partnered, or divorced, straight, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgendered, that all of us are children of the Most High, we may disagree. But if you disagree with me, I cannot write you off. For if we only seek those who agree with us in our faith, what credit is that to us?
For today our words can become our water canons, and our judgment of others our own path to condemnation.
With God’s help, let us choose to be more radical to listen, love, bless, pray, turn the other cheek, and give away what we have. Otherwise, what credit is that to us?
Thank you for your patience, this is going to take awhile.