On MLK Day

On MLK Day

I’m reading John Meacham’s book, His Truth is Marching On. It is the story of John Lewis, U.S. Congressman from Georgia and Civil Rights leader. His commitment to nonviolence in the pursuit of human dignity rises from the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. The gospel story of Jesus forms and shapes a moment calling for change in America.  

Lewis studied at American Baptist College in Nashville in the late 1950s. This same college was a temporary home for Trevecca in the early ’40s when we had no campus and little prospects of a future. While a student there, Lewis became a leader in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins and was beaten and arrested. He wrote the following “rules” for his fellow nonviolent protesters.  

  • “Don’t strike back or curse back if abused. 
  • Don’t laugh out loud. 
  • Don’t hold conversations with floor workers. 
  • Don’t leave your seats until your leader has given you instruction to do so.  
  • Don’t block entrances to the store and aisles. 
  • Be friendly and courteous at all times. 
  • Sit straight and always face the counter. 
  • Report all serious incidents to your leader. Refer all information to your leader in a polite manner. 
  • Remember the teachings of Jesus Christ, Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King. 
  • Remember love and nonviolence, may God bless each of you.” 

As the protestors sat at the segregated lunch counters, angry white responders poured hot coffee on them, burned them with cigarettes, punched them, spit on them, cursed them, and threatened them. When police arrived, they arrested the people sitting quietly at the counters, taking them to jail for disturbing the peace and inciting violence. They found in their suffering a fellowship with Jesus, who was arrested in a garden and eventually charged with political insurrection because he was “no friend of Caesar’s.”  

I wonder if evangelical Christians today need to sit at the feet of the early Civil Rights leaders. While our situation is different from theirs on many levels, we may need to revisit the Sermon on the Mount to find the courage embedded in a nonviolent response. The Sermon on the Mount may extricate us from the pagan beliefs that have infiltrated our faith. We have been infected by belief in American exceptionalism, the idea that we are, like Israel, God’s chosen favorites among the nations. We have been infected by Christian nationalism, the merger of political power and faith in a way that justifies any response to the opposition. We have been infected by the pursuit of political power on the right and left, suggesting that this is the ultimate victory and is synonymous with the kingdom of God coming to earth. All of these are about winning, gaining power, and crushing opposition. 

If Jesus walked among us today, I wonder if he would recognize us as his followers. Do we bless when persecuted, mourn for our world, hunger and thirst for God to set things right, pray for those who curse us, turn the other cheek, love the enemy, walk the second mile, deal with the beam in our own eye, perform our righteous deeds in secret, reconcile with our brother/sister, seek first the kingdom of God, refrain from judging, walk the narrow road, bear good fruit, and build our house on the solid rock? Can we accept social media bashing without responding unkindly? Can we accept the suffering of being lumped and labeled with others who do not represent us? Can we speak truth that meets the standard of God’s truth? Can we love our enemies? Can we suffer and lose with joyful hope in God? Can we lament our own complicity in the condition of our culture without pointing fingers at everybody else? Can we stop being defensive and strategize reconciliation?  Can we live the radically different life of love that marks us as children of our Father in heaven?

As I read Meacham’s biography of John Lewis, I am reminded that the kingdom of God takes shape in the flesh and blood followers of Jesus. On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I habitually read King’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.” This year I plan to add Matthew 5-7. I find myself longing to be identified as a follower of Jesus, not a person consumed by a political posture.

With great grace upon all,
Dan Boone


  1. Thank you for the reminder, Pastor Boone. God Bless.

  2. Two thoughts: 1) It’s unfortunate that John Lewis used his influence to to undermine the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s Presidency. He boycotted the President’s inauguration. He supported the debunked Russia collusion narrative. He claimed Trump’s election was illegitimate, thus contributing to the social hostility in our Nation. 2) It is also unfortunate that believers who speak to the immorality of our society are falsely accused of being politically power hungry. Supporting biblical values that decry the slaughter of the innocents by abortion; the legitimizing of the pathology and the immorality of the homosexual lifestyle; the arrogant re-defining of the Covenant of Marriage as a same sex institution; the foolishness and confusion of gender identity, etc. This is not about political power, it is about saving our society from the destruction of evil.

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