Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King and racial intolerance

The following post was published on the new-defunct on this date in 2010. I reproduce it here for posterity, for whatever it's worth.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Wikimedia

Although Friday, January 15, 2010, was actually the 81st anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth, the official holiday will be observed throughout the United States Monday. The South Bend Tribune lists a variety of activities which will mark the occasion.

The activities include free admission to South Bend’s Center for History, which will show three films from the 1960’s with racial themes:

10:00 a.m. – To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
12:30 p.m. – A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
3:00  p.m. – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Even as we remember his birth, there is a debate about whether King was a true Christian and believed the Bible. There has been talk for years about his moral lapses. (See The 'Truth' About Martin Luther King.) But who of us is without sin?

One website has an article which purports to show King’s doctrinal position was heretical. It quotes two papers written while King was attending Crozer Theological Seminary. Although the contents of these papers would cause most conservative Christians concern, it must be remembered that these were written when he was a young college student, and do not necessarily reflect his beliefs as he got older.

On the contrary, an article by Charles Gilmer on indicates King had a very high regard for the Bible and its teachings. Gilmer points out that the civil rights activist did not teach racial “tolerance,” which is often based on moral relativism, but love.

 “At the center of the Christian faith is the affirmation that there is a God in the universe who is the ground and essence of all reality. A Being of infinite love and boundless power, God is the creator, sustainer, and conserver of values....In contrast to the ethical relativism of [totalitarianism], Christianity sets forth a system of absolute moral values and affirms that God has placed within the very structure of this universe certain moral principles that are fixed and immutable.”
 “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” (Strength to Love, p. 51) [Cited by Gilmer.]

That Martin Luther King understood the message of the Gospel is clear in another passage quoted in the article.

 "Evil can be cast out, not by man alone nor by a dictatorial God who invades our lives, but when we open the door and invite God through Christ to enter. 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.' God is too courteous to break open the door, but when we open it in faith believing, a divine and human confrontation will transform our sin-ruined lives into radiant personalities." (Strength to Love, p. 126)

As we remember Martin Luther King this weekend, remember these words. He was not striving for us to just “tolerate” each other, but to let God’s love transform us so that we would truly love one another.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Treasures of snow from God's storehouse

Where I live, 2017 has come in with most of the snow cover melting, and there are prospects for only light snow this coming week. 2010 was a bit different, and I wrote this piece for "inspired" by the weather. Although I probably would have gone a different direction if I had written this today (even if we currently had heavy snow), the themes of God's provision and providence are still near to my heart. 
Photo by Mark Sommer

Many places in Michiana have already seen close to a foot of snow since the New Year rang in, and there is still more lake effect snow on its way. This area had been spared much of the wintry weather this season, but, if the weather forecast is even close to being correct, there is plenty more to come this week.

Although snow can be a nuisance, there is also a beauty about it that cannot be denied. And in the land of the Bible, mountain snows can bring refreshment as they melt and form streams which provide water for thirty plants, animals and people.

In Proverbs 25:13, the refreshment of snow is compared to a faithful messenger.

Like the cold of snow in time of harvest
Is a faithful messenger to those who send him,
For he refreshes the soul of his masters. (NKJV)

To appreciate this verse, the reader needs to understand something about messengers, and the harvest, in Bible times.

If you needed to get an important message to someone, you couldn't just pull your cell phone out of your pocket, or send an e-mail, or use a phone. You couldn’t even put a letter in a mailbox. You would have to send someone you trust to deliver the message in person.

The harvest time was the hottest and driest part of the year, so the reference to snow pictures quite a contrast. Some scholars interpret the reference to “the cold of snow” as meaning cold water from a snow-fed stream. Thus the American Bible Society’s Contemporary English Version translation of this verse:

A messenger you can trust is just as refreshing as cool water in summer.

Winter snow was designed by God to give refreshment to us during the rest of the year. It melts in spring, giving added moisture to the soil. Snow-fed streams provide water throughout the year.

God’s ability to control the weather is a major theme of Job 38, where God answers Job’s complaints about how he was being treated. Verse 22 talks about the “treasury of snow” – a figure of speech used to show how God in his wisdom reserves the snows for the time which will suit his purposes. The whole point is that God knows how and when to direct the forces of nature. We often do not understand what he is doing, but his wisdom always assures that the timing of the weather is always for the best.

If we are to live biblical lives, we need to trust that God knows what he is doing even when we don’t understand. That is much of what faith is all about. His wisdom and understanding is beyond description. Remember that as you shovel out your car for the umpteenth time this week.

The verse in Job about the “treasury of snow” was part of the inspiration for the song Indescribable by Chris Tomlin. A video of that song with the lyrics is available on YouTube. Take some take to listen and reflect on God’s wisdom and power.