Monday, January 21, 2013

unsexy justice

Today I will meet with my friend and colleague Ronnie Harris. I have known him now for about two and a half years.  I have learned of his heart for social justice. He is especially passionate about liberating people who are victimized by the oppression of human trafficking.  He glows when he relates the story of his African American brothers and sisters migrating to Chicago from the South. His mind and heart light up when he dreams that one day his neighborhood will no longer be known merely for its crime and broken families. He hopes to see a church started there that will truly be a place that serves the community and is a source of healing and reconciliation.

These dreams are hard to come by. There have been many setbacks. Yet, Ronnie continues to hold out hope. Such hope is easier to write about than practice. Discouragement sets in, but Ronnie continues to bounce back. His life is a testament to God’s never-ending grace, mercies renewed every day. Ronnie is not perfect, but he is a believer—in the broadest and best sense of that word.

I must confess: last night I entertained the idea of canceling my meeting with Ronnie today.  Selfishly, I thought: “It’s a holiday. I’d rather just stay home.”

But now it hits me: “That’s right. It’s a holiday—Dr. King’s holiday. What better way to honor his memory than meeting with my friend?”

I realize that I like to idealize Dr. King. I say I embrace his dream when people will be not be judged by the color of their skin. I may take time to read the acceptance speech he delivered when he won the Nobel Prize. I can even tell my children about the importance of Dr. King. Yet, I forget the small victories that were necessary long before Dr. King's meta-narrative gained public recognition.

If the dream calls forth eyes transformed by the vision of equality and hearts alight by the torch of justice, it can only be reached with small moves in friendship.

Sharing a coffee with my friend and continuing to dream with him will not make the news today, but somehow I think it is just the thing to honor Dr. King’s memory. 

But what’s more, we will be two (and then later, two more) gathered in the name of the King of King and all other kings, dreaming of the freedom that long preceded the Civil Rights era and will long outlast our future generations. Ultimately, my hope is that the name of Jesus will be honored even as we strive to honor one another.

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