We have inherited a large house, a great “world house,” in which we have to live together – black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu – a family unduly separated in ideas, cultures, and interests, who, because we can never live again apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.
— Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. understood justice — the inclusive beloved community in which each one is a full participant — as a fundamental condition and concrete expression of the deep peace of God and of the wholeness of life. King, like many Black individuals and communities throughout history, sought new norms of love, reconciliation and universal inclusion in society. These values, while not absent from our lives, cannot be defined as “normal” in a world that allows poverty, racism and war to persist.
For many of us, the past year lifted the veil of our comfortable illusions. Our senses are awakening to the unjust disparities and disregard for dignity and rights that many communities have endured for too long. Just seeing the unseen, however, does not lead to transformation. Our worst impulses lead us to fearfully re-construct the veil — our protective boundaries — even if it means fabricating conspiracies. At our best, we embrace the healthy critique, slowly opening ourselves to the mystery of the present moment and a unitive consciousness.
Throughout his life, Jesus embodied a boundary-crossing mission, demonstrating that the beloved community requires us to cross whatever separates us from the poor, the sick, the different, the despised, the alienated — the least of our sisters and brothers. The practice of justice begins when we cross the border separating us from the lives of our sisters and brothers who are suffering. It is the example of the Good Samaritan. It is what God did for the sake of a broken and divided humanity. Border-crossing transforms us, unfolding the desire to re-define “normal” as love, reconciliation and inclusion.
I have heard more than one missioner relate the call to mission as love’s urging to cross boundaries, moving from the familiar to another reality that is unknown and even uncomfortable. They understand that crossing borders will change their lives. They also know this is where grace enters, deepening our trust in Christ who changes us, re-uniting us to become instruments of peace.
In this Black History Month, for what do I pray that may help me dismantle the barriers created by racism in my life? In this forthcoming season of Lent, how might I better recognize the borders that I protect and maintain, perhaps unconsciously? What divisions and chasms might Christ be helping me to cross in order to alleviate suffering and offer healing? How might each of us re-turn to Christ to be re-membered and re-formed in love together?
The prophet Jeremiah relates God’s call: “Stand by the earliest roads, ask the pathways of old, ‘Which is the way to good?’ and walk it; thus you will find rest for yourselves” (Jer 6:16).
In our Lenten journey this year, may we seek and find this peace in our co-creation with God, in our commitment to work for justice and in our coming together as a beloved community God so desires for us.