Je­sus Isn’t Play­ing (Part 1)

South Florida Times - - PRAYERFUL LIVING - By

REV. MARIA MALLORY WHITE AND REV. JOHN F.WHITE II

We of­ten hear the Rev. Dr. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. de­scribed as “The Dreamer,” but dur­ing this week mark­ing the 50th an­niver­sary of his as­sas­si­na­tion, we want us to re­mem­ber him as a preacher, pas­tor and prophet in the church of Je­sus Christ.

We of­ten hear of King de­scribed as the leader of the Civil Rights Move­ment, but this morn­ing we want to re­mem­ber him as a Bi­ble teacher and gospel preacher, a dis­ci­ple of Je­sus Christ, seek­ing first His King­dom and His right­eous­ness.

We of­ten hear King her­alded as a No­bel Peace Prize win­ner and Drum Ma­jor for Jus­tice, but we’re re­member­ing him now as a son of the Liv­ing God, a co-heir with Christ, one who preached press­ing for the mark of the prize of the high call­ing, which is in Christ Je­sus.

We be­lieve this is the King we need to check in with now.

With the flood of pub­licly per­pe­trated po­lice mur­ders of black folk—mod­ern-day lynch­ings—all the racist and white supremacy pro­pa­ganda, and the gov­ern­mentsanc­tioned in­jus­tices, there’s no deny­ing it: We’ve been here be­fore. the Word of God is still true. There is NOTH­ING new un­der the sun. Today’s Amer­ica isn’t much dif­fer­ent from the one in King’s day; which makes his Novem­ber 17, 1957 ser­mon at the Dex­ter Av­enue Bap­tist Church in Mont­gomery, Alabama as timely today as it was then.

King was so de­ter­mined to share this mes­sage that he reached a com­pro­mise with his doc­tor, who wanted him to re­main on bed rest. He promised his doc­tors he would only en­ter the pul­pit to preach and then im­me­di­ately af­ter, re­turn home and to his bed.

At the start, he cited his text, a pas­sage from Matthew about lov­ing your neigh­bor, which he de­scribed as “these very ar­rest­ing words flow­ing from the lips of our Lord and Master.” King ad­mit­ted it would not let him go and shaped so much of who he was, who he would be­come, who he knew Je­sus to be and what Je­sus was about.

He told the church, “Now let me has­ten to say that Je­sus was very se­ri­ous when he gave this com­mand; He wasn’t play­ing. He re­al­ized that it’s hard to love your en­e­mies. He re­al­ized that it’s dif­fi­cult to love those per­sons who seek to de­feat you, those per­sons who say evil things about you. He re­al­ized that it was painfully hard, press­ingly hard. But he wasn’t play­ing.”

That same year King, C. K. Steele, and Fred L. Shut­tlesworth es­tab­lished the Southern Chris­tian Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence (SCLC), and King be­came its first president. That was the year the "Lit­tle Rock Nine" put their lives on the line, in­te­grat­ing all-white Cen­tral High School with fed­eral troops and the Na­tional Guard as es­corts.

And 1957 was also the year that racial ha­tred and vi­o­lence snatched the lives of black men with­out any re­course or jus­tice: Charles Brown; 19-year-old Rogers Hamil­ton; C.H. Pick­ett, a part-time min­is­ter who was beaten to death while in po­lice cus­tody; Wil­lie Joe San­ford; and W.G. Sin­gle­ton.

And as those names were added to the al­ready trag­i­cally too-long list that in­cluded 14-year-old Em­mett Till, King re­minded the con­gre­ga­tion of sun-kissed chil­dren of the Most High God that even though they were in the world, they were not to be of the world—Je­sus wasn’t play­ing.

Then King con­tin­ued,“And we can­not dis­miss this pas­sage as just an­other ex­am­ple of [An­cient Near Eastern] hy­per­bole, just a sort of ex­ag­ger­a­tion to get over the point. This is a ba­sic phi­los­o­phy of all that we hear com­ing from the lips of our Master. Be­cause Je­sus wasn’t play­ing; be­cause he was se­ri­ous.”

In other words, King is press­ing his claim that Je­sus meant ex­actly what Je­sus said. No, Je­sus wasn’t dream­ing. No, Je­sus wasn’t tak­ing the high road. And no, Je­sus didn’t stut­ter. Je­sus ac­tu­ally, re­ally and def­i­nitely wants His dis­ci­ples to the love the lynch mob mem­bers. He wants us to love the killer cops. He wants us to love the ones who can sit through Bi­ble Study and then mur­der its at­ten­dees. Je­sus wants us to love the wannabe cop who shoots down a child in a hoodie and walks away scott-free. Je­sus wants us to love the hate-mon­ger­ing, misog­y­nist President, and Je­sus wants us to love the ones who per­son­ally at­tacked, mo­lested, be­trayed and aban­doned us—Je­sus wasn’t play­ing!

Can today’s be­liev­ers han­dle that?

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE WHITES

Rev. Maria Mal­lory White and Rev. John F.White II

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