My original version of the following post appeared in the Climate Caretakers February 2017 monthly newsletter. It appears here, with minor tweaks. The challenges for creation care advocates continue to be intense and the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. continue to ring true. As Christians we care for ourselves as we work for justice – whether in race relations or creation care – when we care for others. In this all, it is especially important that we love our enemies – those who act against those heartfelt concerns and efforts. As you read to the end, please also prayerfully consider the suggested Action Options.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who
persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5: 43-45
February is Black History Month, which comes on the heels of January’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. King was an advocate and activist of faith who wrestled with how to make positive change for racial justice in the face of enemies and opponents. He chose the path of Christ and the path of Love despite the intense hatred and violence directed against him, his cause and his fellow change-makers.
This seems to me profoundly important given the contentious, anxious, fearful times we live in. These especially difficult times challenge so many of us in so many areas. Sadly, we still face challenge in the cause of racial justice. Painfully, we also face challenge in the cause of caring for God’s gift of creation. In area after area, so much good has been done that may be undone, so much more needs to be done that may not be done. Climate Caretakers’ weekly prayer bulletins and monthly action newsletters along with the daily news describe decisions, actions and people poised to desecrate our common home.
How should we respond? Despite it all, God, through Christ, calls us to love our neighbors and our enemies.
How can we sustain ourselves for the long haul? We need to care for ourselves. Yet, one of the most important ways we can care for ourselves is by how we respond. Self-care includes living life in God’s way. That includes how we live out advocacy and activism. In God’s way, we love our neighbors and our enemies.
King preached from the gospel call to love our enemies. He did so with a depth of personal, practical experience and wisdom that still applies and still speaks to us today. Christ calls us to that path of love not just for the cause of justice or the good of creation but for our good.
Regardless of who might qualify as an enemy or earn the mantle of opponent to racial justice, creation care or climate protection, the call is the same. As Christ spoke it, as King preached it and as we can follow their example to practice it, we are to love our enemies. In King’s own words from his 1963 Sermon “Loving Your Enemies” (https://www.onfaith.co/onfaith/2015/01/19/martin-luther-king-jr-on-loving-your-enemies/35907 ):
“Probably no admonition of Jesus has been more difficult to follow than the command to “love your enemies.” Some men have sincerely felt that its actual practice is not possible. It is easy, they say, to love those who love you, but how can one love those who openly and insidiously seek to defeat you? Others, like the philosopher Nietzsche, contend that Jesus’ exhortation to love one’s enemies is testimony to the fact that the Christian ethic is designed for the weak and cowardly, and not for the strong and courageous. Jesus, they say, was an impractical idealist.
In spite of these insistent questions and persistent objections, this command of Jesus challenges us with new urgency. Upheaval after upheaval has reminded us that modern man is traveling along a road
called hate, in a journey that will bring us to destruction and damnation. Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world. Jesus is not an impractical idealist: he is the practical realist.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. (bold added)
Kermit M. Hovey, Jr.
Kermit is a Co-founder and Leadership Team Member of Climate Caretakers, a Care of Creation partner, and also serves as Director of Operations and Development for Care of Creation in Madison, WI.
First Steps – Learn about loving your enemies. Read the gospel passage Mt. 5:43-45 along with King’s entire 1963 Sermon “Loving Your Enemies” ( https://www.onfaith.co/onfaith/2015/01/19/martin-luther-king-jr-on-loving-your-enemies/35907) . Journal, reflect and pray about what it means and how it applies to you and your role as a creation carer and Climate Caretaker.
Dig Deeper – Practice loving your enemies. In an attitude of love, sit down and converse with somebody who disagrees with you about climate change. In particular, listen until you hear or recognize something you can agree with or affirm, and then do so. See how many points of agreement you can encounter.
All In – Out of love for God, Creation, your neighbor and your enemy, come to Washington, D.C. for the Acting in Faith Advocacy Days April 29-May 1. Learn about advocating effectively in congress and in a spirit of love and then do so.
Climate Caretakers is working with a coalition of Christian organizations to plan and lead a constituent advocacy day in Congress on Monday, May 1. The full event will begin April 29 with participation (along with hundreds of thousands of others) in the People’s Climate March, followed by an advocacy training day, and finally a day of meetings with Members of Congress.
Climate Caretakers goal is to get ordinary evangelical Christians engaged in faith-based advocacy for climate action in order to create positive change in the new Congress. A website, schedule, registration, and other details can be found at (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/acting-in-faith-evangelical-climate-advocacy-days-registration-31497350423). Please put April 29 – May 1, 2017 on your calendar and plan to be one of 80 people in D.C. speaking truth to power in love and grace at dozens of meetings with Congress.
The following links to the text and the audio of the 1957 version of Martin Luther King Jr’s sermon “Loving Your Enemies”:
http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_loving_your_enemies.1.html – manuscript
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=522wcqUlS0Y – audio recording