Standing for Justice in the Name of Love Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Jan. 15, 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. “We need to pledge ourselves anew to the cause of Christ. We must capture the spirit of the early church. Wherever the early Christians went, they made a triumphant witness for Christ. Whether on the village […]
Standing for Justice in the Name of Love
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Jan. 15, 2017
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We need to pledge ourselves anew to the cause of Christ. We must capture the spirit of the early church. Wherever the early Christians went, they made a triumphant witness for Christ. Whether on the village streets or in the city jails, they daringly proclaimed the good news of the gospel.”
John 1.33 (the one on whom you see the spirit is the one who will baptize with the spirit)
Jesus quoting the prophet Isaiah and claiming the affirmation as his own said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because I have been anointed to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
As followers of Jesus, the spirit of the Lord, the power of God, the breath of life, the energy of the universe is upon us.
We are anointed, that is, appointed to get to work and make a difference.
We are anointed to:
Care for the poor .
Care for political prisoners and refugees.
Help people see where things need to be improved, and see that there is hope that can sustain us all.
Help the oppressed work for liberation.
And do it all year long, year after year.
In the famous hate mail I get, there are two demands I have received repeatedly over the years (less and less overtime, thank God).
One – stop asking for financial support.
Not bloody likely. I gladly ask you to support the work of building the church of Jesus Christ. You are free to say no, but you will have no luck in getting me to stop asking everyone to support this sacred work. I don’t promise you’ll be rich if you tithe or that you’ll be damned if you don’t – both statements are lies. But I believe in our mission with all my heart, and those who believe in it with me, will want to support it. And, supporting something you believe in does feel good and it helps others.
The other demand I get is: Don’t talk about politics; I come to church hear about Jesus.
It is impossible to faithfully talk about Jesus without also dealing with politics.
Some complain that our liberating message is political, and others complain that it’s too soft, too warm and fuzzy…funny how the same message strikes people so differently…I guess if you need to be challenged, you hear challenge, and if you need healing, you hear a message of hope…that’s how God tends to work.
But when people accuse us of being too cuddly, they mean they don’t have much empathy for those who are hurting; and when people accuse of us being political, they usually mean they don’t want their faith to move them to do justice work, even though the prophet Micah said all that God wants from us is to DO JUSTICE, LOVE MERCY, AND DEMONSTRATE SOME HUMILITY.
To care for the poor, the oppressed, to do justice and love mercy…that means that when those in power target people by race or religion or gender identity or sexual orientation or class or ability it would be a betrayal of the gospel to not give voice to the offense and call for repentance and healing.
When Jesus told a story about a GOOD Samaritan…that was political (those dirty, conniving, blasphemous Samaritans…don’t you dare suggest that they can be kind or moral…but Jesus did). Affirming the sacred value of the Samaritans was justice work, some may have called it political.
When Jesus fed hungry crowds, or allowed his disciples to gather food on the Sabbath because they were hungry…that was political. Doing whatever he could to ease suffering sounds like compassion, but when others try to stop you and you do it anyway, it becomes political.
When Jesus didn’t resist arrest in the garden…that was political…as political as when the dogs were unleashed on John Lewis for his nonviolent work for racial justice. Refusing to be violent in your struggle against violence is justice work (or as Dr. King called it, Soul Force).
If our politics or our religion doesn’t lead us to care for those in need, we aren’t doing them right.
Politics comes from a Greek work that means human community; and church comes from a Greek word that means human assembly. Religion is political; politics is spiritual…because they are both about human relationships and working for the highest good. And working for what is good is the call of the gospel. I’m not talking about petty partisan tug of wars – I’m talking about people getting together and working together to help all people experience the best in life.
To be followers of the Galilean prophet whose faith and love caused him to stand up for the least of these, isn’t just to praise him, but to emulate him as best we can – oh, we’ll fail, but nevertheless we must try.
We are going to stand up and speak up and at times act up… for the sake of the kin-dom of God, that anti-empire, that blessed community where Justice Reigns and Love patrols and Hope legislates and where all are welcome and affirmed.
In the kin-dom of God, divine power isn’t power over, but power with. It’s not beating down, it’s lifting up. It’s not crucifixion, it’s resurrection.
That’s what it looks like when the spirit of the Lord is upon us; that’s what it looks like to baptize with spirit, to splash the world with the power of God; that’s what it looks like to follow Jesus; it looks like caring for the poor, the powerless, the marginalized, the outcast, the forgotten, the demoralized, the wounded.
In 1957 at the Dexter Ave Baptist church, Dr. King preached:
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
In our year of evangelism, we must “daringly” implement the demands of justice, and do our best to correct everything that stands against love. Or we could say, we are called to stand for justice in the name of love.
And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2017
The spirit of the Lord is upon me!
God give me hope for my life and hope to share.
I am blessed to bless others.