Dr. King and Mr. Kyle’s King
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Kids all over the country are out of school, having play dates they wish they could have every day, most of them thinking very little about the history of segregation or the periodically deepening and then healing chasms of race relations in our country’s history. But many of us grown-ups spend time thinking those thoughts, wondering how to make things right (or at least vastly better), being inspired by Dr. King’s example.
We teach our kids that it’s what’s inside that counts, not what’s outside, that we are to care about the content of one’s character and not the color of one’s skin. Amen and amen and amen.
I keep thinking about the Source of Dr. King’s belief on all that. He had been poured into by the One – and by the teachings of the One – whose love transcends race and color and origins and all else.
Thinking about all this as I continue to process “American Sniper,” which Brian and I saw yesterday. Chris and Taya Kyle and their powerful story as well as the broader context of our military and the inherent sacrifices they and their families make stayed with me all evening after we returned from watching Chris’s story unfold on the screen, brilliantly told in sight and sound, and then well into the night when I was supposed to be sleeping.
My heart physically ached throughout the night for Taya and the Kyles’ children when, after Chris had found his way out of the worst of his psyche’s casualties from his four tours and he was able to be more like himself, more playful and tender, fully investing in others for the sake of making things better for them, he was murdered by one of the very men he was trying to help. Even now it brings a lump to the throat and tears to the eyes.
And I think of Jesus. Always Jesus. He was once approached by two men who were demon-possessed. (See Matthew 8:28ff.) They were so violent that they were disrupting everything in that part of the countryside; no one could pass by. The demons knew they had it coming – read the passage to see what I mean – but they didn’t leave until Jesus cast them out. He didn’t say to the demons, “Let’s all sit around and eat graham crackers and drink orange juice and sit cross-legged on the floor singing “Kumbaya” and I’ll persuade you to be peaceful all of a sudden.” No, He cast them out. Into pigs. And those violent demons compelled forward the pigs, whose bodies they now inhabited, into the sea, where they drowned – the pigs and the demons.
In that story, Jesus brings peace by casting out, by eliminating, by bringing and end to the demons who brought peril on others.
In another story, though, Jesus handled violence in a completely different way. It’s a story most of us know well. A woman is about to be stoned to death for committing adultery. It’s a story for another another day, maybe tomorrow.
The point is that they are two totally different stories with the same theme: Jesus doesn’t stand by when there is violence and sin; He gets right in the thick of it all and always, always, always, through the power of His love, gets rid of both.
Sometimes it’s with casting out, sometimes it’s with calling out the finger-pointers and then putting the ones who have been bullied back on the right path (‘your sins are forgiven; now go and sin no more’), sometimes it’s with choosing to let sin and violence win for the moment – or so at least it would seem – as in the case of when Jesus healed the ear of the high priest’s slave who had helped arrest Jesus, the very man whose ear Peter slashed off in an attempt to protect his Lord.
Some might say that the way to peace is to approach problems that stem from sin and violence in the Chris Kyle way: using smart, efficient, highly trained military members to eradicate violent threats to life and safety. Others might say that the way to peace is to approach problems that stem from sin and violence in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. way: peaceful protest and remarkably powerful words and examples.
Which way is right? Is there only one right way? Dr. King’s way and Chris Kyle’s way both remind us that even Jesus Himself – He who was without sin – used different methods to handle sin and violence and protect the weak, but always, always He found a way.
What keeps getting massaged in my brain like an enormous ball of play-dough is that we often get tripped up on which way is right – sometimes in our own minds and sometimes in the realm of public debate – rather than focusing on the One who did everything through, with, and because of the power of love. His ways are sometimes obvious, more often mysterious, always holy, and evermore beyond our full comprehension; but they always reflect His love.
What we fill ourselves with is what will spill forth onto other people. May we all remember that as we fill ourselves this day and every day.
The perfect example, the perfect One, for Dr. King and Mr. Kyle to follow turns out to be the very same One who is best for us to follow. This world would be a better place if we all did.