Today’s Quote from Dr. King:
Near the end of his long “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King reflected on the role of the church in working for peace and justice.
“In deep disappointment, I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church; I love her sacred walls. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and fear of being nonconformists.
“There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deem worth 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. Whenever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.” But they went on with the conviction that they had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number, but big in commitment.
“Things are different now. The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo.. . . If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.”
Link to more:
On June 5, 1966, Dr. King preached a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church on “Guidelines for a Constructive Church.” The entire sermon is 24 minutes long, but it doesn’t really begin until about the third minute and you may want to start at that point and listen to as much of it as you want. As is often the case with King’s sermons, the last few minutes are particularly powerful.
For Reflection and Prayer:
- Are there ways that the “fear of being nonconformists” keeps you and/or our church from being more involved with the struggles of the poor and the oppressed?
- To use King’s metaphor, how can we make sure that our church is a thermostat and not a thermometer?
- Pray that you can understand more fully what it really means “to obey God rather than man.”