On our Nation’s national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 12 days after a seditious insurrection on our democracy, and 2 days before the inauguration of our first woman, African American and East Asian Vice President. I’m exploring with those yet hoping for justice in our nation the reliability of the arc of morality and whether it really bends toward justice.
For some of us, the hope for justice, redemption, and reconciliation sometimes seems perpetually deferred. It takes some multi-generational fortitude to dare to believe that righteousness will ever truly overcome America’s original sin of white supremacy. Even in the face of evil, perils, and clear and present dangers, there is still evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that gives us hope. We are living in epic times, of pivotal change and historical markers of transition. I often pause to wonder what the history books will say about what’s happening right now, in my lifetime. You may already have accepted the narrative, “things have never been so bad” when deep inside, you still want to have hope. You want to believe in the inherent good in our nation and the providence of God’s promises for His people within it. So do I.
President Obama cherished an encouraging phrase that he heard from Martin Luther King, Jr, who used it often after he borrowed from a portion of the sermon delivered in 1853 by the abolitionist minister Theodore Parker. President Obama had this stitched into a rug in the oval office to inspire his daily persistence. Some has criticized that he misused the quote:
“The arc of morality is long, but it bends towards justice.”
King took some liberty in paraphrasing the actual quote. Nonetheless, the idea is that even when it looks like evil men are prevailing, our constant, deliberate pursuit of justice, morality, and righteousness, founded upon a faith in Christ will ultimately prevail. Obama and MLK used it often to encourage us to keep on believing, and keep on fighting, day by day, little by little, etc.
Some have abandoned any such hopefulness about the arc bending over the long haul since in some ways the freedom and justice of Africans in America have regressed in the 170+ years after the gains made at the beginning of reconstruction. Yet, Obama often invigorates our hopes while guiding and motivating the younger generations to step up and continue fighting the good fight. It is afterall, not a battle, but a war waged over many battles, years, and even decades.
So, what makes us believe that the arc of morality really bends towards justice? Is it because the author of morality (right and wrong) and creator of the heavens and the earth has already provided the solution to humanity’s problem. He sent His son, a newfangled priest in the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek is the Priest-King to whom Abram, the father of nations paid tribute (Genesis 14:17-20). Jesus was declared a priest like him.
This is where Jesus has entered for us as a forerunner,
since He has become the everlasting High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
The word Melchizedek is formed of two words, Melchi (meaning-my king), and zedek (meaning justice and righteous). So, Jesus is the king priest of right standing with God and Justice. He has already defeated death and has promised His faithful to see the blessings of His Father in the land of the living. MLK was also accustomed to quote the prophet Amos “Let justice well up like water, and righteousness like a flowing stream" (Amos 5:24). Jesus' story repeatedly assets his mission to deliver justice. The word of the Lord bends towards justice, as He is our king of righteousness and justice. Jesus, the living word of God is that arc that is formed to insure justice, morality, and victory.
If this is news to you, you would be justified and even encouraged to rejoice and give Him praise! But, please don’t take it to mean it’s a done deal. This must not cause us to rest, not just yet. We've got much work to do. We are still his hands and feet. We must pray, and work to do the bending. He commands us to “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly" (Micah 6:8). He gave us many role models worthy of emulation such as Theodore Parker, Martin Luther King, Jr, Barack Obama, and many others, all imperfect vessels bending the arc of morality in their due season, by faith and by good measure. You too must do the work for justice with the faith that your work will not be in vain.
The arc or morality does bend toward justice, and we dare to believe we will see it in our lifetime.