I was reading about Martin Luther King Jr. the other day. I wanted to learn more about this guy who has been credited with accomplishing more for our civil rights than possibly any other man in U.S. history.
While I was cruising the internet in search of information about MLK Jr. I found something most enlightening… a website popped up prominently in google searches that seemed to serve to expose a darker side of King. I read it and thought… why? Well, maybe you’re a white guy (like me) who isn’t all that concerned about civil rights (that would be where we differ). Indeed, the tone of racial injustice has improved in our society today, in comparison to the time of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. I know I’m thankful for that. However, if your community is anything like mine, I would wager that the #1 issue facing your community and, specifically, the common ground to unity today, is hatred. I believe the only way to overcome this is through resolving our individual shallowness and having a personal relationship with Jesus. That’s letting Jesus into our heart. This only happens one person at a time.
Someone once said, “there’s safety in numbers.” While that may be true on a battlefield, we have to be very careful in our daily walk who we join hands with.Â This litmus test could be this: Am I honoring God in the journey that I’m traveling?Â I would contend that the mob that showed up onÂ “Bloody Sunday”Â to turn back peaceful demonstrators walked down a very dark road of irrational fear and self-righteousness.
Hatred many times seems to be centered in our own shallowness. We feelÂ threatened that a revelation will occur exposing a dark side of our personality or past, a blemish that we would rather erase instead of just accepting truth and grace and the fact that Jesus came for every one of us… and that we indeed all needed Him.Â Jesus came for all of us so we could have an opportunity to have a relationship with God through faith.
Just a blemish?
Whenever you feel threatened by hatred or an adversarial mob here’s what to do:
- Invite individuals to engage in direct, one on one conversations. Open it up to a direct dialogue one person at a time. Leave that door open… and see for yourself what happens. Hatred often hides in our communities in groups. One on one interaction invites people to develop meaningful dialogue to understanding. And peace. That’s all it takes with reasonable people.
Remember a guy named Jesus? There was a crowd involved in his persecution and lynching. And why did He have to go? A group of people felt threatened by His teaching. Hatred driven by ego… is this sounding all too familiar on MLK Jr. Day? I mean, think about it: Jesus continually put his pundits in their place. These religious people were taking a beating by Jesus as He was bringing their hypocrisy to light. They didn’t like being called out on it, so they thought He had to go. When it came right down to it, they thought Jesus came to save them from oppression of the Roman government… but in fact Jesus came to give them a more liberating freedom… He saved them from their sins and offered eternal life. That just wasn’t good enough for them, because they wanted to live by the law instead of by grace. Truth and grace… it just wasn’t good enough for them… or, should I say, they thought they didn’t need all of that because they (thought they) were too good for it. You see, Jesus came to serve the people, not enslave them. He offered civil rights… an equal opportunity to everyone.
Think about this… how much more fair can it get? Freedom equally offered to everyone.Â
Well, then I started reading about religious freedom in an excellent article fromÂ The Barna Group.Â It seems there are a lot of religious folks who feel like their freedom of religion is being invaded and that there is more trouble coming for our society down the road.
Barna defined and 90% of Americans surveyed agree thatÂ â€œTrue religious freedom means all citizens must have freedom of conscience, which means being able to believe and practice the core commitments and values of your faith.â€ That seems reasonable to want the freedom to practice our faith, but here’s the reality of the situation, according to Barna:Â Americans feel their freedom is being undermined because some groups are trying to move society away from traditional christian values.
Hmmm, this seems suspect so let me add a quick comparison from the past…
Remember the Moral Majority? I wonder how well that would fly today? Or, is it really sinking or dead in the water? Maybe the grumbling that we hear about “religious freedom” is really a group that is feeling their influence is fading from a more prominent position that it held in the past? The Moral Majority had the idea that these good people should go out into the world and have influence. I’m suggesting that HOW that was accomplished was the disconnect between religion and Jesus. This seems to be the single biggest turn off to religion, when we’re using our influence in a manner that society perceives as self-righteousness and hypocritical.
Maybe we’re afraid to really give people the freedom of choice?Â
The tide has changed, and the people who seem to be struggling the most and causing the greatest uproar are those having difficulty adapting to changes that would shift the focus from what they think others should be doing to more of a self-awareness focus of how I can be a better person. This is similar to the change we’ve experienced in leadership from an authoritarian viewpoint to one of empowerment. Think about it: The ones who are really making an impact and statement today are those like Louie Giglio who do good and say, “Hey, I’m going to be the one who sets my agenda, I’m not going to let you chose it for me. I’m focused on doing good things that are relevant.” That’s really what our world wants to be a part of, and where our opportunity to be influential lies.
Can we really say we love Jesus… and be a part of a lynching mob at the same time?Â Maybe it’s time to walk away from the crowd and our shallowness and hold the hand of The One who CAN walk on water?
Unfortunately, until we all decide to just get over ourselves and realize that society needs help… that we need help… we’ll continue to struggle with issues of morality, harmony and unity.
You may recall my take on morality and harmony, based on C.S. Lewis’ work:
â€œMorality, then, seems to be concerned with three things. Firstly, with fair play and harmony between individuals. Secondly, with what might be called tidying up or harmonising the things inside each individual. Thirdly, with the general purpose of human life as a whole: what man was made for: what course the whole fleet ought to be on: what tune the conductor of the band wants it to play.â€C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity.
Can we have both Morality and Harmony?
Absolutely, itâ€™s possible if we keep in mind there is an important connectionâ€¦ it’s humility.Â If we want to keep morality, harmony and humility in the same sentence, we have to look within.Â (Click To Tweet). That’s our greatest opportunity to have influence and create change within our society. Only then can we look outside our own heart, to our relationships where we have the ability to make a difference. If you’re looking to have influence outside of yourself, strive to be a person who is growing in his relationship with Jesus. Then, look to be someone who is a game changer in the lives of others who lie within your close circles. Finally, continue to reach out and have influence with others by bringing them INTO the close circles.Â Strive to be someone who anyone may one day say “that dude is the person who brought me closer to God.”Â I think that’s the greatest positive impact any of us can hope to have on society and in our world today.
What does religious freedom mean to you? How can you draw others into your closest circle of influence?