Choosing Your Response
Devotional 8 of 10
by Justin Taylor
Heavenly Father, we are eternally grateful for the peace you provide that surpasses all understanding. Give us the strength to consistently lead with love, even when our circumstances seem to suggest a different stance. Show us the importance of relinquishing our own agendas and submitting to your perfect will.
I hear many enemies whispering; terror is all around me. They are making plans against me, plotting to kill me. But my trust is in you, O LORD; you are my God. I am always in your care; save me from my enemies, from those who persecute me. Look on your servant with kindness; save me in your constant love.
On March 9, 1965, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived in Selma, Alabama, with a heavy heart. Two days prior, on a day that will forever be known as “Bloody Sunday,” some of King’s colleagues had been beaten and tear gassed while marching over the Edmund Pettus bridge in a peaceful demonstration for equal voting rights. Police officers had orders to disrupt and disperse the gathering at any cost, and they left more than 50 injured in their wake.
King quickly organized a second demonstration. This trek across the Pettus bridge took on a much different tone. The demonstrators faced the same police force that had physically harmed them just 48 hours earlier, but instead of retaliating in rage, King knelt and led the group in a brief, silent prayer before turning around and marching back in the opposite direction. The police stood down. King’s message had been received. Six days later, President Lyndon B. Johnson would address Congress to endorse legislation for equal voting rights.
Named in the Bible as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), King David penned Psalm 31 as both a love letter to God and a declaration of faith. It’s not hard to imagine the difficulties he was writing about. Scripture records several moments of David’s life where he faced danger and persecution from every side. From the taunts of a giant warrior to the threats of a manic king, David’s faith was tested in every way imaginable. In response to this turmoil, he turned to the Lord. Even when those tough moments were self-inflicted and well deserved, David often made the choice to abide with God—his only proven place of refuge.
We see a similar choice reflected in Dr. King’s life and ministry. Instead of fighting back with the same hateful venom he often received, he approached each confrontation as an opportunity to place love on display in the public square. Though many of his supporters wanted him to use his bully pulpit to fight fire with fire, King decided to disregard the noise and fulfill his calling. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness,” he once preached. “Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
While terror and hate seem to dominate our world, God calls us to be first responders—rushing into the chaos with God’s love. While Dr. King and King David were both flawed men with their own personal struggles, they found a way to quiet the noise and tune into God’s call. May their examples of obedience push us into our greatest display of service and surrender to a faithful God.
Questions for personal thought or group discussion:
1. What habits do you need to break through to cultivate and display God’s love for those who trouble you?
2. How might Dr. King and David display God’s love to enemies in today’s social and political climate? What new factors would they need to consider?
3. What fruit might grow in our communities and churches when we follow the examples of these two obedient people?
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