Rev. T. Chambers-Young, Ph. D.
I stand today as one of four Vice Presidents of the National Council of Churches in the USA, as an ordained minister on the staff of Holy Temple Baptist Church, of OKC, Pastor George E. Young, and as an African American woman, one who has known discrimination first hand. I cannot begin to speak for the more than 36 denominations affiliated with the NCCCUSA, nor can I speak for all the members of Progressive National Baptist Convention of which Holy Temple is affiliated. I can however, as a woman, and African American Christian woman share my views with you.
I come with no long theological discourse, or deep insightful truths. My message to you is simple. It is a message of love. Extravagant love. No matter what your belief, what your conviction, to strive to love others, I believe would be an appropriate aim. We have learned much from the life of martyrs like the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We often quote his “I Have a Dream” speech. We talk a lot about his dream, and the plea for freedom and justice. Imbedded in that same speech, is an appeal to us that in our quest for freedom we do not stoop to hatred.
Quoting Dr. King, he says,
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”( Dr. M. L. King, Jr.)
I believe these words can be beneficial to us as we strive to seek ways to sensitive to rights of others while holding to our own convictions. Whatever we do, whatever our belief, in our zeal to be true to our own faith traditions, “we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds” towards others. We must not allow our “thirst for freedom to cause us to drink form the cup of bitterness, [fear], and hatred.” For those of us who are of the Christian tradition, to do so would nullify our claims of Christianity. To be Christian is to love extravagantly. Loving extravagantly leaves no room for, judgmental attitudes, condemnation, or hatred. And fear is not of God.
Ask any Christian what is the one definitive mark of a Christian, and they will probably give the response love. To say it and to live it are two different things. Perhaps it is our inability to love extravagantly that hinders our witness, not the beliefs, or non-belief of others, not the culture or the chaos of this world, but our inability to love.
Love should be the distinguishing mark of any person who has accepted the Christian doctrine. But is it? There is not a more all-inclusive, descriptive term to be found. But somehow we have twisted the definition to mean something other than what the Bible, our Christian guide teaches.
I Corinthians 13: 3b-7 (Peterson, The Message) tells us that love…
never gives up, cares more for others than for self, doesn’t want what it doesn’t have, does not strut, does not have a swelled head, does not force itself on others, isn’t always saying me first, doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, Trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going until the end ….
This is extravagant love. Extravagant love allows freedom to ring. To “Let Freedom Ring” is not to make others conform, but to live our lives in such a manner that transformation of our world is inevitable. To let religious freedom ring is to allow every person the right to worship according to the dictates of his or her own conscience. This does not mean that I cease to “be an example of believers in example, speech, conduct, and love” (I Timothy 4:12b). But that I refrain from being judgmental, and condemning of those who hold beliefs that are different from my own. Who knows, but by my conduct, some might be won.
As I come to close I would like again to quote Peterson, The Message, I Cor. 13: 8-13.
Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over one day; praying in tongues will end, understanding will reach its limit, we know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the complete arrives, our incompleteness will be canceled….We don’t see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do… Trust steadily in God, hopes unswervingly, love extravagantly….
As we continue to fight for freedom of religion and to honor diversity, may we live out the blessing found in:
A Franciscan Benediction
May God bless you with discomfort…
at easy answers, half –truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart
May God bless you with Anger…
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people
so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with Tears…
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness…
To believe that you can make a difference in their world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
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