To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion Proverbs 1:2-4 (KJV)
Today is the last day of February. To me that means Spring starts tomorrow! Yes, I know I am rushing it, but if they are playing baseball somewhere (and they are!), it is officially Spring.
Today also is the last day of Black History Month, and I want to call to mind one of the great pieces of literature of the 20th century, that being Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail. I encourage my readers to read the letter in its entirety, but I just quote a portion here. He is discussing the comparison of just and unjust laws. As we are painfully aware, the “Jim Crow” laws of the south were still in effect in many states at that time. In this letter, King gives a thoughtful and poignant comparison of just and unjust laws, as well as stirring quotes such as Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
So, I conclude with this quote from his letter…
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man- made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see truth and justice as you see it, and give us the courage to seek those goals, Amen