In the days leading up to Martin Luther King Jr Day on January 16th, I spent some serious time reflecting on the life and words of brother Martin, as he was often referred to as. It was a way to not allow the moment to just be another holiday where I don’t consider the meaning or significance. What could I learn from his legacy that would make me a better person, a better member of my family, neighborhood, my community?
While reading one of my all-time favorite quotes by Dr. King, a particular word stood out with particular significance. Here are his words written in famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:
“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Brotherhood (sisters and brothers) - this idea that we are all family, we are all connected by our humanity. It was Dr. King who spoke this truth beautifully again in that same letter saying, “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” It struck me deeply that he likely penned these words while sitting in a jail cell, if not then shortly after his release. It was clear that he saw his captors and even those that remained silent and indifferent to his imprisonment as brothers. The term brother really stood out to me in his words.
“Hey brother, how’s it going?” This is my usual greeting when addressing my male friends and with some exceptions based on the setting and context, I tend to use it when addressing relative strangers. I don’t typically use the term “sister” but perhaps I will start using it more often! I will mix it up occasionally with “man” or “dude” but brother is my go to term.
I don't use the term brother lightly. I want to try and see people as family, regardless of where they come from, what the look like or what languages they speak or don’t speak. I don’t always get that right but I am committed to trying. I use the term Brother because it represents Family. What is unique about a family?
Think about families you know. Family members usually have lots in common right? They have shared memories, often have a shared last name and they usually share some general common interests fostered by being together. The real beauty however in a family is not what they have in coming but rather the cohesiveness through its diversity. Different likes and dislikes in food, music, hobbies, etc... Differences in appearance. Different skills and abilities. Differences in opinion and world view (this was probably highlighted at many dinner tables over the holidays). The beauty comes from the strength it takes to stand together in the midst of glaring differences.
Think about your family members. Regretfully some of us may not have strong family bonds or even a family at all. Think about people that you consider to be like family or what you hope your family would be like. When someone in your family is sad, you try to comfort them. When they are happy or successful, you celebrate with them! When your sister is facing a bully or some form of exploitation, ridicule or belittlement, you step in and stand up for her. When your brother is grieving some tragedy in his life, you grieve with him and try to comfort him. You don’t minimize his pain and you try to be aware of the things that could trigger his pain. After all, this is what you want from the sisters and brothers in your life.
The truth is, if we are to see the dream of Dr. King realized, this picture of “love and brotherhood shining over our great nation with scintillating beauty”, we have to reclaim and recapture the truth that we are all part of the human family. “We are caught in this inescapable network of mutuality.”
If we are to clear “the deep fog of misunderstanding and wash clean our “fear-drenched communities”, we have to recapture the truth that we are all brothers and sisters on this earth. We have to see and hear each other the way that we want to be seen and heard in our own families.
As Pastor Trey reminded us as we were gathered together to remember the life and legacy of Dr. King, it starts with each of us. It starts with the posture of my heart. Am I willing to see that person, as different than me as I can imagine, as my brother and sister and invite them in to my home and to my table and in to my life as my brother and my sister? Despite all of the reasons I shouldn’t or couldn’t, despite what my neighborhood may think or say and despite what feels easy and convenient, will I see the “other” as my sister and my brother?
Dr. King’s dream was so much greater than tolerance, right? He did not lay down his life to see us merely tolerate one another, rather he gave himself to a dream of love and brotherhood. This dream that is the hope that we have for peace and unity, is the same dream that Jesus called us to. He commanded us to love one another the way that He loved us, as family.
We must close the gap of distance that divides us and come close to each other to see the humanity behind each other’s eyes. The Dream is that get to know the people in our community that are different than us. The Dream is that we take the first step to closing the divide and embracing our differences as beautiful and essential to our collective flourishing.
An old proverb says:
“When I saw him from afar,
I thought he was a monster.
When he got closer,
I thought he was just an animal.
When he got closer,
I recognized that he was a human.
When we were face to face,
I realized that he was my brother.”
I want to be the one in this proverb that is coming closer so that people would not see me as an enemy or foe but rather as a friend and moreover, a brother. I don’t want to wait for people to come close to me so that I can see them as family. I want to be the brother to you that is moving closer to you so that you see that I am truly your brother. I want so desperately to see this scintillating beauty shine over our great nation? But first I want to see it shine over my neighborhood and my city. I choose to be one of the lights. What about you?
Learn about our upcoming event HERE