Who Gets To Judge?

I'm in so many ways a son of the South. I have lived most of my life in Mississippi, North Carolina and Georgia with a few stops elsewhere. I have lived and ministered among those who still use the N-word in everyday language and I have counted upon and put my trust in my brothers in Christ who are of African-American descent.

It has long been my desire to visit the King Center here in Atlanta and this summer, our family set our sights on making that happen. I have not read as widely as I'd like on Dr. King though I've read probably more than most. What I am most often struck by in the writings of so many is the absolute lack of recognition of the deep faith and the sermons of Dr. King which speak so forcefully of his trust in Jesus Christ.

So, during our time at the King Center, I looked for copies of sermons, of the messages of Dr. King, those rarely mentioned words inspired by God's Spirit. I managed to find two. I'll admit I was disappointed but I bought them and took them home. They've sit to the side now for a couple of weeks.

Now my own journey has taken me into the time that St. John of the Cross termed, “the dark night of the soul.” I have read his works and others on the role of suffering and pain in the life of the Christian. My own theology of suffering is being shaped in these many months and I've come to a recognition that our understanding of suffering in western Christianity is tragically underdeveloped. It barely hangs on life support, neglected and withered.

The times of dark nights are, in my estimation, misunderstood or more tragically, seen as weak faith. To read and hear Dr. King though, I come across one who both lived in times of dark nights and found there, the chance to face what God intends there – the places we need work.

As I rolled out of bed this week, I knocked those CDs off my bedside table. There, on the top, was the sermon, “Judging Others.” That signaled all to clearly a piece of my own soul that myself and others close to me, have found themselves dealing with lately.

Dr. King begins with the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1 saying, "Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” He goes on to share how Jesus modeled that with the woman caught in adultery, with Peter, the disciple who denied him, and Zacchaeus, the “wee-little man in the sycamore tree.” He added to it his own stories of trying to live out this command of Jesus in the face racism. He also shared of the conflict within the black community regarding the tension over non-violent protest or violent activism.

At the end of the sermon, Dr. King drives home the application points, questions which drive to the heart of the matter. We should ask these of ourselves in any and all situations where we might speak regarding others. Dr. King quotes from Dr. Alexander White, that before we speak we should ask:

1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it kind?

“If you can answer these three questions you can go out here and talk about anybody you want to talk about. When you answer these you come to a love of humanity. You don't judge too easily for in the process of judging, you judge yourself. As I come to my conclusion, our job is to be like Jesus.”

No, it isn't Martin Luther King Jr. Day but then wisdom doesn't ever call it in. Neither did Dr. King. Neither should the followers of Jesus.


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