In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I am doing what everyone else is doing – posting a thoughtful and provocative quote from the man who has inspired many not only in his day and generation, but for many yet to come. I wish to offer a brief comment to the quote as well.
“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
What made Martin Luther King, Jr. so profound is that he was truly counter-cultural. In his day when the typical response was either acceptance (of my view, my way, my culture, my policies, etc) or elimination (by segregation, intimidation, marginalization or even assassination), he advocated and championed a more profound position – creative extremism. He saw that the most profound and world-changing act of persuasion was neither legislative or brute force.
It was love.
The kind of radical love that actively sought the best interests of another, and took them on as their own, regardless of the reception.
Martin Luther King, Jr. lived out this love, because he was a man who recognized that he had been loved in that extremely creative and radical way by another.
This love has come to us all in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and it is only as we receive that love by the most creative extremist ever can we then turn and share that love with others.
Other-wordly, radical, creative-extremist type love is really the only way anything different can ever happen in this world.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Forby grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV)