Rep. John Lewis
It’s been another one of those weeks. And in some ways, it’s been a really good one. You can feel the sand shifting and the winds of justice blowing. Today, I took time to listen to an interview that one of my heroes, Rep. John Lewis, recently gave to CBS This Morning.
Read the words that 23-year-old Rep. Lewis said in 1963 (1963!) on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington:
We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by the policeman. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again. And then you holler, “Be patient.” How long can we be patient? We want our freedom and we want it now.
57 years later – after enduring police beatings that nearly took his life – the now 80-year-old Rep. Lewis does not give in to despair:
It is my hope that we are on our way to greater change. To respect the dignity and the worth of every human being, and it doesn't matter the color or their background or whether they're male or female, gay or straight. We have come to a point, and said “We are one people. We're one family.” We all live in the same house — not just American house, but the world house.
And when asked by Gayle King how he remains optimistic in light of what he personally experienced?
Yes, I was beaten, left bloody and unconscious. But I never became bitter or hostile, never gave up. I believe that somehow and some way if it becomes necessary to use our bodies to help redeem the soul of a nation, then we must do it.
This ten-minute interview – whether you were alive when Rep. Lewis spoke at the Lincoln Memorial or if you think it’s all ancient history – is well worth your time.
It will give you hope.
Between coronavirus and the new civil rights movement, there has never been a better time for your congregation to grapple with who you are and what you stand for. Instead of worrying about how your congregation will survive, think about what it means to “be church” right now.
How can your congregation be that beacon of light in the darkness? How can it have a voice in the community? How can it be a place where people can come together – to discuss, to listen, and see a way forward through the hard issues that divide us? How can your congregation be part of systemic change?
When you have clarity around your purpose and mission, that’s when generosity springs forth. You may lose some people, and that will surely be difficult. But because you’re clear about who you are, there will be others who will inevitably join you.
Want to figure out your why? Check out my favorite TED Talk on the subject, Simon Senek’s “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” One of my first blogs featured Sinek: Telling Your Story: What’s Your Purpose? Here’s another blog post on the same topic: Know Who You Are. And finally, The Value of Mission Statements.
I’ll finish by letting the words of Rep. Lewis – a man who knows his purpose – speak to you:
And Dr. King said over and over again, "Hate is too heavy a burden to bear." The way of love is a much better way.
And that's what we did. We were arrested. We were jailed. We were beaten. But we didn't hate, and we helped change America. And I truly believe what's taking place now and will continue to take place during the next few days and weeks is going to take us much farther down that road to society at peace with itself.