The average temperature in Washington at this time of the year is below 10 degrees Celsius and that’s being generous. It was nearer 5 degrees the day I drove into the city centre to meditate around three memo-rials; the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. All are within five minutes’ walk of each other.
It’s one thing to watch the movie Lincoln, or read about the Korean War, or listen to the “I have a dream” speech, but it is an altogether different experience to visit, sit, ponder and meditate at these memorials and understand the enormity of what they stand for in the light of history.
In January 1863 (one hundred and fifty years ago this year), Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves. Two years later, in January 1865, he secured congressional approval of the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery in the United States. Then, just four months later, he was assassinated.
To sit and reflect on the man, his time and his cause makes you realise the enormity of Lincoln’s challenge. The loneliness of the journey against the tide of opposition appeared to make Lincoln more resolute in the fight for the 13th Amendment, and it ended in his death.
As you walk in front of the Lincoln memorial looking down the mall, you can stand on the spot where one hundred years later, in late August 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood to deliver one of the most powerful speeches the world has ever heard as he continued the fight for the rights of African-Americans who were enslaved because of their colour. The Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment seemed to have done very little to offer true freedom. Five years later, King’s fight also ended with his assassination.
As I walked through the Korean War Veterans Memorial, I was reminded again of the cost of war. In many ways this was a third world war—New Zealand was one of the participating countries and many young New Zealand soldiers paid with their lives. Most haunting of all is the Memorial’s message, “Freedom is Not Free.”
Indeed, freedom is not free. Freedom, it seems, is a never-ending battle, and many who fight for the freedom of others must give up their own lives.
As I commenced to walk down to the Martin Luther King, Jr. (MKL) memorial, I did so with a feeling that I would truly sense God in this time of reflection. A classmate at Fuller theological seminary had sent me an email sharing a word she believed God had for me. I had chosen the MLK Memorial as the place to sit and reflect on that word. I guess I was looking for some moment of deep spiritual enlightenment and believed that the MKL Memorial might provide that for me.
As I sat at its base, I read the statement that’s etched in the stone carving of this great man. It says, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” I commented to my classmate in my reflection email back to her that I would be content to be a mere drummer boy in the fight for freedom, for justice, peace and righteousness.
I am reminded afresh, however, of the One, the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, our Commander in Chief, who has already fought and won the fight for justice, peace and righteousness, and who has already fought for our freedom, and the freedom of millions enslaved around the world. Jesus has already won the war, but he challenges us to fight the battles of injustice that plague our planet today.
My study sabbatical has reached the mid-point in its duration and not surprisingly, at this point in time, has raised more questions than answers. One thing is absolute for me, however, and I share it without reservation. The local church, with Christ at its centre, is God’s chosen vehicle to bring redemption to this planet and the injustices that plague it. Will we take up His call, as His church, and do whatever it takes to bring freedom to those who are yet to be free, even if it costs us our lives?
There are issues of injustice that we, the church, need to tackle and fight for. Slavery and human trafficking is one, but it’s not an exclusive issue. How do we fully understand God’s view of justice and righteousness? And when we fully understand it, how are we orientating our lives to align with God’s view? And then, how are we acting on that understanding? It’s a ‘both and’ call on us, the individuals that make up the church of Jesus Christ.
Jesus once said, “…I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” John 5:19 (NIV)
I believe one of the major things the father is doing, is delighting in kindness, justice and righteousness (Jer. 9:24b), and we are called to do likewise.
Peter Mihaere is the General Director of The New Zealand Baptist Missionary Society (NZBMS) – New Zealand Baptists Reaching the World. He is currently taking a “study-sabbatical” as he investigates and seeks God concerning the issue of human traf¬ficking and a New Zealand Baptist response to it.
You can contact Peter at email@example.com.
With Permission From: General Directors Blog NZBMS