I have been re-reading portions of a book that I read during my doctoral work, Search for the Beloved Community, by Smith and Zepp. It focuses on the thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr., especially as it formed the basis for his later actions in the Civil Rights movement. At a time when people of many faiths are being persecuted around the world, often by people of other, or even the same faith tradition, King's words about the personal God in which he believed offer hope to all who work to end injustice and discrimination, at home and around the world. These words are taken from his book, Strength to Love, published in 1963:
"I am convinced that the universe is under the control of a loving purpose, and that
in the struggle for righteousness man has cosmic companionship. Behind the harsh
appearances of the world, there is a benign power.To say that this God is personal
is not to make him a finite object beside other objects or attribute to him the limitations
of human personality; it is to take what is finest and noblest in our consciousness and
affirm its perfect existence in him...So, in the truest sense of the word, God is a living
God. In him there is feeling and will, responsive to the deepest yearnings of the human
heart: this God both evokes and answers prayer."
King's words can be helpful whenever we test the tenets of our faith, or when we hear others who appear to proclaim hatred in the name of religion. In essence, God does not think or take the same political sides as we do, because God is not finite. We are. King was able to rise above the hatred that surrounded him and finally killed him, because he worked from a belief in a living, transformative God's framework of love, and refused to sink to the level of his detractors who sought to harm him, or that of some of his defenders who sought to respond to violence in kind. His words remind us that faith should not be embraced lightly, to reinforce what we already believe. The living God will challenge and remake our finite thinking, but only if we are open to that change taking place.