Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Paul wrote these words to his friends in Philippi while he was in jail for talking about Jesus. You may think that is quite unfair, but it was against the law or at the very least, bucking the authority was against the law and Paul’s words were a threat the the powers that be… just as Jesus’ were.
I don’t know what it is about jail that inspires people to write great letters, and I hope I never find out. But Martin Luther King Jr. wrote an amazing letter while he was in jail in Birmingham because of his participation in a non-violent protest.
Apparently some white, clergymen were concerned that the protests were getting in the way of the message of social change and these clergymen thought that discrimination should be sorted out in the court system and not on the streets. In response MLK writes,”Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider…”
“Outsiders” weren’t a part of Jesus’ language. To him, everyone was an outsider and he did his best to reach out with love and compassion.
Both Paul and MLK had passion for the messages that they tried to spread. With that passion came action and consequences.
There is still discrimination in the world. But we can do something to stop it. We can take action – Reach out to the outsiders. Call people out who treat others as outsiders. And above all – love your neighbor. No matter what they look like or where they are from.
And with all of these actions come consequences. Others may not agree with you. You may lose friends. In rare cases, you may get arrested. But is the message of Jesus – ie to love others – enough to call you to act with passion? Even if you don’t quite buy into Jesus – aren’t we as human beings worthy of treating others the way we want to be treated?
Go and act with compassion and see the world as if no one was an outsider.
To read the King’s letter in full, go to http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
Until Everyone Hears,