When we annually observe the birthday [January 15, 1939] of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we remember the life and legacy of a great American moral leader. Dr. King disrupted the tranquility of a nation, while helping to weave the ethical and moral tapestry that would provide a foundation for building lasting community. He posed the question of ultimate destiny with regard to whether America would choose chaos or community.
Too often, it seems that we choose chaos rather than community. As a nation, we have just completed a very divisive political campaign. Already we have witnessed protests and demonstrations against the president elect. The chaos is manifested in a variety of polar opposites: democrats vs. republicans, majority vs. minority, black vs. white, liberal vs. conservative, rural vs. urban and suburban, rich vs. poor, well education vs. the less educated, etc.
We also see signs of division in the United Methodist Church. There is talk of the possibility of schism in the church. There is, however, a Commission that is grappling with the possibilities of shaping a way forward with regard to gender issues – homosexuality, ordination, same gender marriages, etc.
Regardless of the arena, the nation or the UMC, there is an unhealthy attitude manifested as “us versus them.” Such a posture can only lead to chaos, not community. In the spirit of Dr. King, we should strive to live in community as citizens of the United States of America. As Christians, Jesus calls us to live in community: “So, we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another” (Romans 12:5).
In Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963), he said: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
Dr. King fully recognized the “interrelatedness of all communities and states.” He further stated that “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” An example of this is the Affordable Healthcare Act that affects all Americans because it has to do with the health of the American people.
We live in a world that is interrelated in so many ways. Thomas L. Friedman argues that the “world is flat.” This is a result of globalization. The nations of the world are connected by air, land and sea trade roots, and technology. The lower forty-eight states of the United States are connected by the interstate highway system as well as by air, rail and sea. The cities and villages of each state are connected by a web of county and state highways. The whole nation is wired, as is the world. The people of the United States and the other nations of the world are connected through relationships. We are a “network of mutuality.”
In the United Methodist Church, we consider ourselves to be a connectional church, connected by our love of Jesus and our roots in the United Methodist way. We are connected through our membership in local churches that are connected by their membership in an annual conference. The annual conferences are located in episcopal areas, that are organized into jurisdictions and/or central conferences. We are a “network of mutuality.”
In celebrating the birthday of Dr. King, we give thanks for the gift of a pilgrim disciple who was such an amazing leader in weaving the fabric of a “network of mutuality” in this nation and the world. Like the Apostle Paul, Dr. King has helped us to understand that all races, all ethnic groups, and all nations are needed to gain unity in the body of Christ.
We have work to do in the United Methodist Church and in the nation. The various denominations have work to do. The U.S Congress has work to do, as well as the president and the Supreme Court.
The real work of building a “network of mutuality” begins in the neighborhoods where we live, the churches where we worship, and the workplaces where we labor. Thank you, Dr. King.
Think About It!