“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi
Revolution brings light into the darkness of the world. Martin Luther King once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”King was a prophet, not because he was a great orator or remarkably intelligent—both of which he was—but because he led a nation of people out of exile. The March on Washington and the protests in Birmingham were but symbols of an inner pilgrimage. He guided the African-American community through the desert where they had to face the temptations of fear, resentment, and aggression. Yes, they demanded change, but not before they removed the log from their eye.
After hundreds of years of slavery, social, and economic injustice, resentment and animosity were surely brewing in the minds and hearts of many African-Americans, but King offered them a path of redemption. King wrote, in a Letter from a Birmingham Jail,
Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: Are you able to accept blows without retaliating? Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?
This is the essence of, not only Christian spirituality, but an informed and responsible citizenry: a belief in the redemptive power of love, which can only be found, as St. Paul intimates in Philippians, through kenosis or “self-purification.” We must return to our human nature, emptying ourselves of who we think we are, so that we may embody our true Life. King taught a nation how to practice Jesus’ teaching, not by preaching, but by embodying the principle of love and showing us how to love one another, even when the “other” is our enemy. He was a prophet because his actions preached for him.
The Rev’d Martin Luther King, Jr. at Galilee Baptist Church in Shreveport, LA
~speech begins at 3 minutes and 20 seconds