Today, on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” and on the morning after the act of terror at The Boston Marathon, here are words of intersection… As we hear the word “extremist” being used in the media to describe unimaginable hate, Dr. King’s letter beacons us, still to be a different type of extremist.

 

Excerpt from MLK’s Letter From a
Birmingham Jail, 50 years later:

Was not Jesus an extremist for
love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that
hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute
you.” 

Was not Amos an extremist for
justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever
flowing stream.”

Was not Paul an extremist for the
Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

Was not Martin Luther an
extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.”

And John Bunyan: “I will stay
in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.”

And Abraham Lincoln: “This
nation cannot survive half slave and half free.”

And Thomas Jefferson: “We
hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . .
.”

So the question is not whether we
will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be
extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of
injustice or for the extension of justice?

In that dramatic scene on
Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three
were crucified for the same crime—the crime of extremism. Two were extremists
for immorality, and thus fell below their environment.

The other, Jesus Christ, was an
extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment.
Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative
extremists.

Click here to read the full letter.

Rev. Andy Oliver

Director of Communications at Reconciling Ministries Network
Andy Oliver has two children: Liam and Evan. Before joining RMN, he served as a United Methodist pastor in Florida and is currently appointed to RMN from the Florida Conference. Andy received his B.S. in Public Relations from The University of Florida and his M.Div. from Duke Divinity School.

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