Here’s a little known fact from one of the most respected, loved and emulated people around the world.
The following information has been detailed in some books that I’ve seen over the years. But most comes from an online opinion piece published some years ago in The Guardian newspaper called: When MLK Gave Up His Guns.
After his house was firebombed MLK applied for a concealed carry permit. This happened in Montgomery, AL., during protests for the infamous Bus Boycott of 1955-56. And just to remind some in our audience, during the segregation days of the South a black woman named Rosa Parks sat in the white section of a bus (at that time was against the laws of Alabama State).
When Miss Parks refused to move she was promptly arrested and jailed for almost a week! Decades later Miss Parks said in an interview: All I was doing was trying to get home from work.
The TV broadcasts of the boycott brought Miss Parks, MLK and others national headlines. As a result journalists and other civil rights groups met with MLK at his house. These included members of pacifist black groups who had joined the protests.
They noticed the many guns lying around MLKs house and, as the story goes, some members stayed up all night debating with MLK, trying to convince him that armed self-defense would damage rather than help their mutual cause.
According to the Guardian article “it was not long before King had come around to the position advocated” by those groups. And from that time on MLK adopted a policy of nonviolence not just when it came to protests but as a “way of life.” He even maintained his resolve under conditions that would make others falter.
For example, years later, when King was addressing a convention, a member of the American Nazi Party jumped onto the stage and hit him in the face. The article says that “King responded with a level of courage that made a lifelong impression on many of those in the audience.” One of them was the noted educator and activist Septima Clark [called the “Grandmother” of the Civil Rights Movement]. According to Miss Clark King dropped his hands like a newborn baby and spoke calmly to his white supremacist attacker. King made no effort to protect himself even as he was knocked backwards by further blows, and later even insisted that he would not press charges.”
Now most of Christianity expects a clergyman [MLK was an ordained Baptist minister] to live by such a personal vow of nonviolence. But why do we expect only the clergy to abstain from all types of violence, let alone killing?
Now I agree with MLK when he said that loyalty to country should not be measured by your ability to kill. I also agree with his definition of nonviolence as “avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him. At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love. That old law about an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”
Unfortunately, like most in the clergy, Dr. King did not preach against people using guns to defend themselves unless they were protesting. In other words, you would be justified to kill the person(s) breaking into your house or country but not the racist at a protest. But did Jesus make any such distinction?
But I tell you, Love your enemies except….. when it comes to defending home or country..?
So let me once again encourage any self-professed pastor-teacher out there not to divide Christ in such ways. After all, Jesus says in Paul:
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone and to live in peace with everyone, Rom 12.
NOTE the words anyone and everyone is not just some but not others! And Jesus was not obviously directing his commandments to the clergy.
So be brave enough to use the God-given authority your church has given you and direct your sheep to always, and not just sometimes, do the right thing.