“I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt…and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land….
So states the Exodus reading for Martin Luther King Day. This is one of the few days of the daily lectionary year that is impacted by a national figure – a minister and civil rights leader, and one who was martyred doing that work of reconciliation.
Dr. King spoke against the Vietnam War, and he did so by beginning his reasoning with “Thou shalt not kill.” It is then appropriate that the New Testament passage that was chosen for this day is a related passage: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
In this world afflicted with violence and war at every turn, I wonder what King would say to us. What Jesus would say? These are hard times, when rarely do I hear ministers anymore talk about loving one’s enemies. We seem to be so caught up in building community that it seems a stretch just to love one’s friends and fellow congregants.
But our call is much higher. To embrace one’s enemy and turn the other cheek is a stretch for some, impossible for others. But there it is – unmistakable in scripture.
And what are we to do? Perhaps on this day, remembering the greatness of a man who died for the cause and hope of racial equality, we can take some time to rediscover our own need for transformation into justice. It is also a time to be thankful, for God has delivered us from our own Egypt. But we must be open to the deliverance which is yet at hand, and we must be open to it.
Who knows where God will lead us?