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Holy Dissatisfaction

January 20, 2017

On this day of the Inauguration of America’s new President, I’m reminded that despair and dissatisfaction are opposites. Despair is the enemy of justice for despair is rooted in hopelessness. In contrast, dissatisfaction fuels work for justice for it is rooted in hope–the confidence that life can and will be made right. And our hope is rooted in God, the One who will indeed bring justice–setting all things right. Therefore, dissatisfaction is a vibrant expression of faith, hope, and love. May the Spirit of God nourish our resolute dissatisfaction and our participation in God’s right-making work.

Martin Luther King, Jr. profoundly expressed this in his 1967 speech “Where do we go from here?” given to the Southern Christian Leadership Assembly Convention in Atlanta:

“I’ve decided to stick with love, for love is the only answer to humankind’s problems…I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. I’ve seen too much hate…hate is too great a burden to bear. I’ve decided to love. So, I conclude by saying again today that we have a task and let us go out with a “divine dissatisfaction.”

Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds.

Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort and the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice.

Let us be dissatisfied until those that live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security.

Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family is living in a decent sanitary home.

Let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality, integrated education.

Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity.

Let us be dissatisfied until men and women, however black they may be, will be judged on the basis of the content of their character and not on the basis of the color of their skin. Let us be dissatisfied.

Let us be dissatisfied until every state capitol houses a governor who will do justly, who will love mercy and who will walk humbly with his God. (Micah 6:8)

Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. (Amos 5:24)

Let us be dissatisfied until that day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid. (Isaiah 11:6)

Let us be dissatisfied. And men will recognize that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. (Acts 17:26)

Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout “White Power!” – when nobody will shout “Black Power!” – but everybody will talk about God’s power and human power.”

With truthful realism, Dr. King goes on to say,

“I must confess, my friends that the road ahead will not always be smooth…There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted…But difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future…Let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows…This is our hope for the future, and with this faith we will be able to sing in some not too distant tomorrow, with a cosmic past tense, ‘We have overcome! We have overcome! Deep in my heart, I did believe we would overcome.’”

Martin Luther King, Jr., “Where do we go from Here?” Delivered at the 11th Annual SCLC Convention, Atlanta, GA, Aug 12, 1967.


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