WE ARE CAUGHT in an inescapable network of mutuality.
Those words. That knowing. His dream, informed by another, subservient beyond bounds right to what was true always, led him there and elsewhere. Most men care far less leaving them safer and justifiably right. Dr. King, indeed an intelligent man, will never be remembered for what he knew alone. Others knew as well and more, yet his dream moved him far beyond knowing alone. With the life of Martin Luther King, we should remember more than the icon, see race, but beyond, and deeper than the quotes of his oratory genius, to hear and learn what he knew – that it is not enough to know alone.
In Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King’s response to fellow clergymen he deemed were “men of genuine goodwill” do more than immortalize a man who changed history. No, much more. Look and see. With his words he shows care to ensure his fellow clergymen do not mistake him to be the leader of any sort of justice movement. Instead he joins himself to a collective of outcasts who’ve cried from centuries past of Gospel freedom, a lasting freedom that no oppressor of race or economy or sex or name can ever truly rule over. For in Christ we have freedom, and in Him, we are freed indeed, now and forevermore. Dr. King knew this, which is why from the confinement of a jail in Birmingham he could be nowhere else.
To know something is never enough. With knowledge comes responsibility for what we know. In the Good Samaritan, Jesus teaches that knowledge informs us as to guide us to what we should do and care for more than what we know with our heads. Is it not because he stooped to meet the needs of the wounded man that the Samaritan can be called good at all? We must care about what we know or perhaps we do not wholly know what we think we know. In fact, responsibility and care for what we know reveal what we actually do know.
Admittedly, I do not know all that I claim to know, not really and not truly. I allow for my knowledge to be thwarted by reason, comfort, busyness, reputation and so many other meaningless interruptions positioned between my head and heart. Certainly King, only a man himself, wrestled with this distance of head and heart and of knowledge and care for what he knew, but in his life what we see beyond the iconic legend is a man who won.
And so today, on a day where we give pause to remember a man and a movement, may knowledge so inform us, too, and may we – no, we must – care for all we know and so be guided to act. Then we will know all that we know.
We who know are indeed caught in an inescapable network of mutuality that we must care for.