Summary: A call to be prophets to our generation in the way God worked through Amos & MLK jr - to rediscover God’s absolute priorities for our Churches
Rediscovering the prophetic - MLK
I watched a BBC programme about Martin Luther King Junior (MLK) a couple of months ago now presented by Oona King a past Labour MP in London (before she lost her Bethnal Green & Bow seat to the controversial George Galloway). She seemed to want to portray MLK as a man who used faith & religion to gain power for himself & to drive forward an agenda of moral change. She was of course driven by her own lack of faith & belief that moral change for the common good did not require Christian belief. By the end I think it would be fair to say that she had to concede King’s faith was not an extra but the driving force the power the moral imperative that caused his ministry to be so extremely effective & powerful.
The documentary which followed MLK’s rallies, demonstrations & work around the US included many testimonies from people who knew & worked with him, & it was excellent & well worth a watch if you see it repeated. It provoked me during my time off after surgery to spend some time rereading some other stuff by King.
MLK was not a perfect man or a sinless man. He was though as we Phil Cook said about ray Tite in his funeral this week a forgiven man.
No MLK was a sinner, but a forgiven sinner, & a man blessed by God with such a ministry – he was a prophet.
The Lord took me back to another prophet - to that most amazing 5th chapter of Amos where God gives His people clear warnings about the value of their worship & offerings if they ignored the primary demands of His for justice, mercy & righteousness.
The Lord challenged me to see that both of these prophets – Amos & King – were called to be prophets for their generations, & that we need to rediscover our prophetic voice because these problems clearly remain for us today.
Yet we are not so passionate indeed one could say we don’t seem to see the Biblical Gospel priorities of Amos & MLK as priorities for us today.
In the Bible God makes it quite clear that He is deeply concerned about justice & fairness in the way society should be organised – there are over 2000 verse about justice & poverty in the Bible – we just need to wake up & see them!
Bishop Shepherd was quite right when he asserted that our God has a ‘Bias to the poor’. In the Old Testament the people of Israel are taught again & again that they should care for the poor & oppressed the alien & the widow. God establishes for them the principle of the year of Jubilee when debts will be cancelled & everyone get the chance not just for nominal redemption but a real life changing new start.
They are told that their priority of care is towards these things & that God expects them to act as He does. Indeed Amos goes as far as saying that their & our worship & offerings are offensive to God if we / they do not go along with our use of our strength to free the weak, if our prophetic voice is not heard in the world.
Yet the Jews & the Church in turn have been unable to follow God’s ways. The alien has been rejected & treated with at best suspicion. The Jubilee dismissed as religious day dreaming nonsense that would never work in the ‘real world’. We have constantly seen a ‘gospel’ preached that promises the poor it’s ok to put up with rubbish today because there will be jam tomorrow in heaven.
The New Testament does nothing that I can see to do away with our God’s priorities for the way society should be governed. Indeed Jesus seems to want to expand the possibilities. We are told that we are to pray for those who curse us & to refuse to deal in violence but instead to turn the other cheek & love our enemies.
When we read these Gospel Biblical imperatives we can do nothing but make the logical deduction that God wants us to be as salt & light & change the world.
King did just that. He heard the voice of Jesus calling him to follow the route of non violence. I came across a quote from him saying ‘Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.’
You know I think the way the UK, USA, Israel et al has behaved in its relations with the Palestinians & the Middle East in recent years it is almost as if those lessons of Jesus have never been heard in the corridors of power. It almost beggars belief that we could be so stupid. How we need to rediscover this kind of prophetic voice to shout loud enough that Brown & Bush & whoever follows in their stead for instance begin to understand as MLK clearly did that it is love not war that will set us & our enemies free.