More Concerned About Cushion Than The Cross
The acceptable year of the Lord is any year when [all true Christians] will begin to “do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with their God.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, May 29, 1966
Two years before his assassination, Dr. M.L. King Jr preached in Brooklyn, New York, at Cornerstone Baptist Church. His message came from Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 4:18-19; and Luke 16:19-31. The message title, and content, is still applicable today: Guidelines For A Constructive Church. His message outline had these main points: The answer to a broken heart; Preaching to the poor; The acceptable year of the Lord; God’s guidelines aren’t easy; and It’s dark now, but morning will surely come! Rev. Lawrence Aker III described it this way: There are too many churches more concerned about a cushion than following Jesus on the way of the cross.
MLK’s words were spoken over a generation ago, when the American culture was overshadowed by injustice (social, moral and legal) and the American Church wrestled in her own bondage of segregation and self-concern. I’ll let his words speak for themselves:
Now a great deal of the broken-heartedness of our generation grows out of the complexity of modern life itself so often hovered up in big cities…the basic reason for a broken heart is the constant experiencing of disappointment…I am convinced that the church has the answer to a broken heart.
The church must tell America that it isn’t enough to soar high in the material realm and the technological realm…In the midst of our affluence, in the midst of the fact that we are the wealthiest nation in the world, we suffer from a poverty of spirit…we haven’t learned the simple art of living together as brothers. We are called to preach the gospel to a nation that has a poverty of the spirit. The church is called upon to speak to the world, to speak to the nations.
The “acceptable year of the Lord” is that year when every tongue shall confess, when every knee shall bow, when all over the world we’ll sing it like we did this afternoon — Hallelujah! Hallelujah! He’s King of kings. He’s Lord of lords. The kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!
Too many Christians are wearing the cross, and not enough are bearing the cross. Too many churches have a cross sitting at the center, but they aren’t willing to follow the true meaning of the cross. The cross means what it says. It’s something that you die on…But there are too many churches more concerned about a cushion than a cross; more concerned about making the gospel something easy, retranslating the gospel to read, “Go ye into all the world and keep your blood pressure down, and lo I will make you a well adjusted personality.” This isn’t God’s church!
And I want to say to you this afternoon, brothers and sisters, that I’m not worried about tomorrow. I don’t know what it holds. But I do know who holds the future, and I know he lives. He’s not dead…God still rules. Because I have faith in this God, I have faith in the future.
If we are audacious enough to be a “constructive church” we must pragmatically live out the centripetal and centrifugal forces of mission — bringing hope to the broken hearted at the source of Living Water! To quote Bailey, Those who show compassion, in whatever form, realize that without a message that changes hearts and without a just society, their work is incomplete (Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 162).
In Luke’s fourth chapter, Jesus in stepping into his public ministry. Inaugurated into the public eye proclaiming the true Kingdom, with justice advocacy and compassion. Looking at the text, you can see a pattern:
Preach — the good news to the poor.
Sent — to proclaim to prisoners freedom (allusions to the “year of Jubiliee”)
Sight — to the blind who receive sight.
Send — forth the oppressed to freedom.
Proclaim — the acceptable year of the Lord. (credit to: Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes)
You can also see a “mirror image” in this outline…proclamation, justice advocacy, compassion, justice advocacy, proclamation. If we reference I Corinthians 13:13, we see that it pivots on the act of love - compassion - at the center of this Pauline list.
In a summary reflection: What does Dr. King’s message say to you today?
How is my ministry, my life, bringing hope to the broken hearted in the midst of despair?
How can I…how can the church…live a life more concerned with the cross than with our own comfort (cushion)?
- Matthew DeCoste, Kent Copley and elizabethcog like this