He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
Having the favor of the people can turn on a dime. I have known too many beloved leaders in the community who took one step too far and then lost the popularity and support they once held. Preachers, politicians, and professionals alike are often at the whim of the people they serve. Jesus was widely respected and praised by everyone when he first initiated his ministry, but was then run out of town when he claimed that the scripture was being fulfilled in him. Likewise, Martin Luther King Jr. was revered and praised for the kind of prophetic proclamations he made, but it ultimately led to his assassination.
A few days ago, I was asked to speak at the community Martin Luther King Jr. service. At first I felt honored by the request, but then I felt terrified. How in the world can I possibly do justice to the man whom I have admired most of my adult life? How can I find the right words to pray in memory of a preacher who I strive to emulate on a weekly basis? How can I speak a word of hope and truth while so many people are still being persecuted for the color of their skin?
But then I remembered a few words that Martin Luther King Jr. once said; words that Jesus similarly uttered in the garden of Gethsemane: “I just want to do God’s will.”
Whatever we do in our lives, it should have less to do with what we think people will think, and more to do with striving to seek God’s will in our lives. Rather than sugarcoat messages of hope, we should continually be pushed to seek justice for the many ways we have failed to love our brothers and sisters.
I end this devotional with a prayer from Martin Luther King Jr. Let us use these words this week to faithfully pray for God to move among us and transform the world.
“Thou Eternal God, our of whose absolute power and infinite intelligence the who universe has come into being, we humbly confess that we have not loved thee with our hearts, souls, and minds, and we have not love our neighbors as Christ loved us. We have all too often lived by our own selfish impulses rather than by the life of sacrificial love as revealed by Christ. We often give in order to receive. We love our friends and hate our enemies. We go the first mile but dare not travel the second. We forgive but dare not forget. And so as we look within ourselves, we are confronted with the appalling fact that the history of our lives is the history of an eternal revolt against you. But thou, O God, have mercy upon us. Forgive us for what we could have been but failed to be. Give us the intelligence to know your will. Give us the courage to do your will. Give us the devotion to love your will. In the name and spirit of Jesus, we pray. Amen.”