Tough Times Ahead
On June 23, 1963, Martin Luther King stood before a crowd of 25,000 at Cobo Hall in Detroit. After applauding the discipline of the crowd for their non-violent march and reminding them that almost one hundred years earlier Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation ending physical slavery, he declared that the “Negro in the United States of America still isn’t free.” He went on to stress that it was not the time to “slow up or cool down.” The time to end segregation and racial injustice was now and non-violence was the means to achieve the goal.
King drove home the power of non-violent protest. It would expose the moral weakness in their opponents and the human dignity in themselves. Imprisonment wouldn’t halt their march because a jail cell could be transformed into a “haven for freedom and human dignity.” Then he stressed the life and death commitment needed for the cause to prevail, “And even if he tries to kill you (he can’t kill you), you’ll develop the inner conviction that there are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for. And I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”
The Apostle Paul had discovered something even more precious than human freedom and ending segregation and racial injustice in the United States. On the Damascus Road he met the only King who could truly set us free and this King was the Savior who had nail prints in His hands and His feet. At that moment Paul found the One worth living and dying for and Jesus told him from the beginning that he would face many hard times as he shared with others that by grace we are saved through faith and that not of ourselves, it’s the gift of God, not of works, lest any man or woman should boast.
In a letter from a Roman jail Paul would later write to the Ephesians that Jesus had torn down the wall between Jews and Gentiles, His Church was One. Not even a warning from a legitimate Judean prophet would stop Paul’s steps toward Jerusalem where he would deliver the generous gift from his Gentile church to meet the needs of the famine stricken Jerusalem believers.
“While Paul stayed many days in Caesarea, a certain prophet, named Agabus, arrived from Judea. When he came to us, he removed Paul’s belt and proceeded to bind is own feet and hands. Then he said, ‘This is what the Holy Spirit says about the man to whom this belt belongs. Like I’m bound, he will be bound and the Jews will hand him into the hands of the Gentiles.’
When we heard these things, we and the local residents pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul replied, ‘Why all this weeping. You’re breaking my heart. For I’m not only willing to go to Jerusalem and be bound, but I’m also prepared to die for the Name of the Lord Jesus.’ When we realized we could not change his mind, we stopped pleading with him and concluded, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’” Acts 21:10-14
LORD, your children remain divided in their many churches, especially over race and socio-economics. May your Spirit generate the family unity your Son died to create. Tear down the walls. And help me keep proclaiming Your Gospel of Grace even when faced with hard times. Renew my commitment that “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
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