It is hard to believe that less than half a century ago, in America, whites were by law entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to the detriment of African Americans rights to the same thing. It's painful to remember, it is so awful.
Whites were at liberty to shop and eat and drink and swim and study where they wanted, blacks were not. Whites were at liberty to pursue happiness in any trade or profession or school or relationship or marriage they wanted, blacks were not. Whites even took away black lives to maintain their sense of white supremacy.
Less than half a century ago, in America, blacks were by law considered unequal and treated as such, thereby violating and ignoring the self-evident truth declared in 1776 that all humans are created equal.
So, despite our nation's founders' claim that our nation answered God's call to consider all created equal and have the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuant of happiness, our nation let the elitist call to white supremacy through and left God on call waiting.
So God got on another line and dialed and dialed and dialed. For decades God called.
Many people heard the call, but at first only a few answered. Today the most well known of those who answered is the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because he did something remarkable about it. Like the prophets in the Bible he took action against oppression.
Lots of people have taken action against oppression, but most rebels in history have resorted to violence. Jesus and the Rev. King, however, did something else entirely. They took the Old and New Testament commandments to "Love your neighbor as yourself," and applied it to everyone, including those who hated them. They used love as a force.
The Rev. King, relying on Jesus, advocated for non-violence - and by that he did not mean doing nothing.
Ignoring injustice is not how Jesus' "love everyone" works. Jesus declared that he was sent to "bring good news to the poor . . . proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free."
This is what Jesus worked (and works) toward, this is what He stands for.
Jesus' form of non-violence is love-filled, but resistance-laced and oppression-ending oriented.
In other words, the end goal is peace, and the means to get there is love.
In John's Gospel, peace is what Jesus gives to us and leaves with us.
"Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus notes in his "Sermon on the Mount" is the personal reward that is ours when we take his gift of peace and use it. Jesus is telling us to answer God when God calls.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did just that. He applied Jesus' non-violent, love-filled, but resistance-laced and oppression-ending oriented theology and it worked, proving that what Jesus taught is possible to do in the modern world and apply.
It is great that we have a secular holiday that honors the Rev. King, but what he did, he did as an instrument of God. And what a blessing it was.
The Rev. Scott Elliott is the pastor at Riviera United Church of Christ in Palm Bay. Visit Riviera UCC's website at rivieraucc.org.