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On Peacemaking and Bridge Building

My personal mission statement includes “peacemaking” and “bridge-building,” as does the mission statement of my non-profit organization, Bevy. Would I compare myself to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for these reasons? I most certainly would not compare myself to him, a man I’ve already outlived in age, but one who greatly surpassed me as far as impacting the world in his cut-short life…but I’d love to think we share many of the same passions.

What can I say? It’s in my DNA. I, too, was born a middle-child, so I’m hard-wired to build bridges and believe the best about people. On some occasions, it’s gotten my heart all twisted up, not to mention bruised and discouraged, but then I trace my heart and DNA back to the day I gave my life over to God’s grace, receiving His unconditional love through the gift of knowing and trusting and following Jesus Christ. I rub my eyes, lift up my head, and my perspective is renewed as I recall the words spoken on a mountainside a long time ago…words of hope, truthful words, words of life from the mouth of God and written in red letters.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. – Matthew 5:9

I’m not going to try to find a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or pretend I am familiar with every one of his articles, books, and speeches he ever wrote, post it here, just this one time, on this day in particular, and then go my merry way, not living out the other days of the year with the same passionate intention.

THAT would be disrespectful and dishonoring…his legacy and life matter more than one day in January. Dr. King was not my Savior but, because of how he lived and died, he is remembered and will always have my respect.

In this one life we’ve been given, we’ll all be remembered for something. For me, I hope it’s as a lover, peacemaker, and bridge-builder for God’s kingdom. But it can’t just be something I hope to be remembered for…I must live it, even on the days that seem mundane, my circle of influence feels small, or those days when the news reports feel like setbacks and shackles.

So, what did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I have in common? Well, after his name was changed at age 5, we share “L” as our middle initials. And, speaking of “middle” I can’t help but wonder if part of his passion was hard-wired from his birth order, as well, maybe practicing on his siblings as I did while growing up. I love pecan pie, too, but I can’t say it is my favorite. And, we were both pastors, but, ironically as a black man in the South, he had more freedom at the pulpit than I as a woman do…but that’s another post.

Anyway, you know I’m kind of joking, but the truth is, who wouldn’t want to be able to grasp for something to have in common with such a world changer as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? But let’s be honest, there will never be over 900 streets named after me, or you, or you, if we aren’t making peace on our own streets, in our neighborhoods, within our very own relationships, in our churches, in our places of work, even with our own hearts.

My mom told me before she died to be careful of peacemaking because not everyone is interested in making peace. I was blown away. Who wouldn’t want peace?

But the truth is, some people fight so loud to be heard, they can’t hear anyone else. They fight so loud to be right, they don’t take the time to listen and learn.

And that, that’s where Dr. King and I share a similar heart. I care about people’s stories. I want to hear those stories, not just share my own. I’m not trying to find all our commonalities, but rather learn and wrestle and continue to love others as I’m challenged to hear and grow because of our differences. And dreams? His choice of words for his epic speech resonate with me on a daily basis…I, too, am a dreamer…not of the daydreaming type, but dreams where each one of us is free to flourish in the unique, beautiful, God-designed ways in which we were created, all for God’s glory…not flourishing AT one another, but alongside each other, like a beautiful symphony playing an incredible masterpiece!

I believe we were all created in God’s image, not just certain sexes or branches or sects or pockets of humanity, but all of us, and then God said it was good…it’s controversial, obviously, the wording where it says, “For God so loved the world…” I can see where it leaves some wondering maybe which hemisphere or continent or color or gender or country He meant when He said, “World…”

Peacemaking entails entering into the story of another human being. It requires at minimum, listening, and at the core, empathy. The most important questions we can ask ourselves are, “How would that make me feel?” Or “How would I feel if that happened to me?” They are vulnerable, authentic, sometimes gut-wrenching questions and a little selfish, if you think about it, but asking requires heart and one that will most certainly tear down walls as it unfolds the beauty of empathy on the road to bridge-building.

I believe MLK followed Jesus’ example of peacemaking, which is why it was controversial 1,960 some years later. The Pharisees hated Jesus’ style, and this nation’s politics hated Dr. King’s. But when our eyes and hearts are opened to the systems of the world and their brokenness, and we know Whose we are, being “controversial” is never the motivator, Love is, and Love Always Wins.

 

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