WE MUST STAND
On last week, I shared an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail. On today, I am highlight a portion of that excerpt:
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.
Two thousand years later, many who consider themselves to be leaders are simply thermometers. They only record and recount the issues and concerns of the community. They only restate the obvious and remind us of what we are already aware of. They are satisfied permitting people to remain who they are and conditions to remain as they are.
· “Young ladies with children are out here struggling.”
· “Our youth are going down the wrong path.”
· “Our neighborhoods are dirty, houses are deteriorating and no one cares.”
· “Our schools are in need of an overhaul.”
· “Yes, he should not have permitted that to happen in his gas station…” (from the pastor who acknowledged the obscene act and refused to open his mouth to condemn the one who permitted it.)
Dr. King encouraged us to be thermostats. He encouraged us to be those who transform the mores of society. He also reminded us, “… the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed.” They understood that being a thermostat meant suffering. They understand that being one who seeks to transform meant sacrifice. They understood that those who desire to make their family, their church, their community, their school, their place of employment, their environment better must be willing to give something of themselves to accomplish it.
Our responsibility is not to make people comfortable where they are. Our responsibility is to press, encourage and support people in doing their most, their greatest, their best – to fulfill their calling for God. And, if we must sacrifice being liked, being supported, large crowds, generous offerings, many volunteers to do God’s will, so be it.
Dr. King shared at the National Labor Leadership Assembly for Peace in 1967:
One spoke to me one day and said, “Now Dr. King, don’t you think you’re going to have to agree more with the Administration’s policy? I understand that your position on Vietnam has hurt the budget of your organization. And many people who respected you in civil rights have lost that respect and don’t you think that you’re going to have to agree more with the Administration’s policy to regain this?” And I had to answer by looking that person into the eye, and say “I’m sorry sir but you don’t know me. I’m not a consensus leader.” I do not determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of my organization or by taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion. Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.