The Eternal “Oughtness”

“I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘issues’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him.” –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I think there’s very little that Dr. King spoke that is not quote-worthy. His words were powerful forces that spurred people to action, not hateful violence, but peaceful, productive activism. I think about all the words in the world right now, being tossed about on websites, in comment sections, in meetings and classrooms and on television. On my own little blog. So many words, so many thoughts and ideas. And to what purpose?

A speech communication major, I spent the morning reviewing some of Dr. King’s speeches, letting them wash over me, feeling the timeless plea, the stern conviction, and the hopeful cadence. Then I scrolled through the news feed and bowed my head. My tired, weary side tells me we have such a long way left to go. And my ‘you-can’t-get-me-down’ stubbornness whispers, “But look at how far we’ve come.”

Both statements are true. We’ve come so far and have quite a distance to go. I think back to what Dr. King witnessed in those years of peaceful resistance—the beatings, the insults, the injustice. And even in the face of such hatred and bigotry, he still believed humanity is capable of doing what we ought.

It’s easy to think we can’t make a difference. I know I am no Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., nor do I know if I have the courage and wisdom to walk such a road. But I will take his words to heart and remember that if he could hope for broken, prideful, sinful people to do what we should, looking up at the Eternal Good as our guide, then I too can have that hope. I can be one of those people who refuse to settle for injustice and sin as “human nature” and instead push on to what which is good, right, just, acceptable, and full of love. Together, let’s not think things will never change. By the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, change for the better is completely and fully possible.

As Dr. King declares, we are not morally incapable of good. Not when the power of God lives inside of us.

So let us not cling so tightly to our safety that we avoid love. Where can you walk outside of yourself today, looking to benefit the need or the plight of another? I will bow on my knees and pray for God to humble me, to open my eyes and my heart, to give me courage to see, to open my hands to give and to share rather than to clench my fist in fear and self-righteousness. I will ask God to show me how to love as He loves though it may require sacrifice. Let us press on. In our niche, in our place, in our realm of influence, let us press on loving and doing good, laying our own selves aside for the glory of God to reign. It is more than possible.

“We who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh…want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” excerpts from Philippians 3