Monday, January 15, 2007

“I Have A Dream”

In the United States today was celebrated as Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday. Martin Luther King, Jr. is celebrated as a civil rights hero, with his most famous speech being his “I Have A Dream” speech. Both the text and audio/video are available at “I Have A Dream”.

This speech resonates for many people both in the USA as well as throughout the world. It addresses the aguish of heart that people experience because of many forms of abuse that exist throughout the world. Injustice is hard to bear. Shouting out against the wrong that is done to a person seems like the right thing to do. “My people have been wronged!”

Of course, the real reason we cry out in most instances is because we ourselves have felt the injustice in some way directed at us. We often stand by and shake our heads at the injustice that we see until it impacts us personally. What we often really mean to say is: “I have been wronged.” It is much more effective, however, if we cry out for an entire people. Thus we do not cry out about the injustice toward ourselves, but cry out about the injustice done to an ethnic group or a race of people.

Dr. King concludes his famous speech, saying:

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

This does indeed sound like a noble and wonderful dream.

There is an inherent problem, however, with this kind of a dream. The problem is, as Dr. King puts it, “I have a dream.” The dream is slanted from the person’s own perspective. None of us needs to dig very deeply to find how warped our own perspective is. Each of us always begins from the same point: with our perspective. We begin from our own point of view and our own experience. Then we look out beyond ourselves and if it fits with our objective, we begin to include others, too.

This might even be OK if not for one very important factor. We don’t have the power to bring our dream to fruition. We always have to cry out to a higher power than ourselves. In Dr. King’s case, and with all leaders of every civil rights movement, the cry is for the government to make the changes.

This always falls flat because no government has the power to change people’s hearts. The government can write laws and punish those who violate these laws, but such actions do not change people’s hearts. Injustice and hatred flow from hearts that are corrupt and selfish by nature.

There is one who has the power to change hearts. He actually takes up residence in the person’s heart so as to change its focus and to create it anew with a new and right spirit. See Psalm 51 for a fuller exposition.

The one who has the power to change hearts and make them new does not do so by organizing protest marches or though civil rights laws. He effects His miracles through sacrificing Himself in the place of those on whom the suffering rests. Those who are helpless look on as He takes their helplessness as His own. Those who are persecuted see Him take their persecution and bear it in His own body. Those who suffer injustice hear the false accusations leveled against Him. Those who have no where to turn for help hear Him cry out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken Me?” These hurting souls see and hear all injustice directed to this one person, who leaves no injustice unborn. He bore the stripes and iniquity of us all.

This one rose up from the dead in everlasting victory over all that is wrong. He overcame injustice not by attacking the wrongdoers, but by bearing their injustice in His own body. Carrying these evils to His own death, He left true freedom behind and rose victoriously to prove it. He continues to make this new freedom available in connection with Himself through special means. Those who are baptized into Him feast upon His Holy Communion and live free from the things that previously ruled their hearts and minds.

This is true freedom. This freedom is proclaimed every Sunday, even as it rang out in this Sunday’s historic readings, particularly in the ancient appointed reading of the Epistle, especially these verses and a few following verses:

     Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

     Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

     Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

     Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Rom 12:9-21 NKJ)

The power to live in this way is the power of a changed heart. No man can change his own heart, no matter how hard he tries. But with God, all things are possible. Not only are they possible, but He makes them real.

When this reality occurs and is realized in the person’s life, then the following words are much, much more than a dream:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

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