How The Struggle For Justice Will Be Truly Won

I've been reading a collection of some of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's sermons in an excellent collection called Strength to Love.  The more I read, the more I have come to realize just how prescient his words are for our particular moment in history. 

Some people are given a vision of the way the world ought to be, but conversely also a vision of what might transpire if the "ought to be" is ignored, shouted down or blithely swept aside.  In the Old Testament, they called these people prophets.  

But what should be noted above all, is that Dr. King believed that lasting, positive change cannot truly happen in our society without the transformation of the human heart.  

He wrote: "Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit."

It doesn't take a lot of effort to see that the world we are living in right now is filled with challenges.  In the words of William Butler Yeats, in these moments it feels sometimes as if  "The best lack all conviction, while the worst /Are full of passionate intensity."

There is so much that is wrong around us, and so much uncertainty as to how it will all turn out, but if we allow ourselves to be consumed by the wrongness of it all... we lose something along the way.  

I read this amazing poem by Jack Gilbert yesterday, and I kept thinking about it all day long:  

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, 
we lessen the importance of their deprivation, 
we must risk delight.  We can do without pleasure, 
But not delight.  Not enjoyment.  We must have 
The stubbornness to accept our gladness in 
the ruthless 
Furnace of this world.  To make injustice the only 
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil. 
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, 
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude. 
We must admit there will be music despite 

I  loved this poem so much.  It gave me a thrill inside of my chest, but also a measure of sadness as I realized just how much we've all missed feeling delight, gladness, and joy in the midst of all of the injustice and division that surrounds us.  

The truth is our zeal to make the world a better place can often lead us to live lives filled with bitterness, narrow-minded thinking, anger that won't fade, and ultimately a sense of helplessness that things will never be right.  

But if we stubbornly refuse to let our joy be stolen... if we shield ourselves from experiencing delight... if we let our music be silenced... the darkness that we strive to disperse grows all the more powerful.  

Dr. King believed that the tide in the struggle against evil would only turn when we experience the kind of inner transformation that enables the light of Christ within us to shine more brightly.  "A city on a hill," Jesus once said, "cannot be hidden."    

And in order for that light to shine bright enough for the world to see, you and I need to hold on to joy, let our music play, embrace gladness, and even learn to laugh through our tears.  

The struggle for a better world will be won first in our own hearts and then in the hearts of those who see the light within us.  It will be much harder to ignore than our outrage.  

Don't get me wrong, there is a time for anger.  There is a time to speak up and speak out.  There is a time to fight hard against injustice.  But we should never let the struggle harden our hearts, steal our joy, silence our music, and hide our light.  

May it be so for you today and every day forward.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen. 


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