You are a Light

July 27, 2020

 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” Romans 12:14

"You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone — any person or any force — dampen, dim or diminish your light … Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won." Congressman John Lewis on being human in Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America

John Robert Lewis, who died last week on July 17th,  was an American politician and civil-rights leader who served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia's 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death in 2020.  Lewis was one of the "Big Six" leaders of groups, including Martin Luther King, Jr., who organized the 1963 March on Washington and the last surviving one at the time of his death. He fulfilled many key roles in the civil rights movement and its actions to end legalized racial segregation in the United States. In 1965, Lewis led the Selma to Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In an incident which became known as Bloody Sunday, armed Alabama police attacked unarmed civil rights demonstrators, including Lewis, whom they beat and bloodied with a stick, fracturing his skull.[1]

John Lewis lived what Jesus and the Apostle Paul taught. The Civil Rights Movement was a movement grounded in the Christian faith of its leaders and the principle of nonviolence. Lewis and the other Civil Rights leaders taught our nation how to make changes with the principle of love through action. Lewis said, “When we were sitting in, it was love in action. When we went on the freedom ride, it was love in action. The march from Selma to Montgomery was love in action. We do it not simply because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s love in action. That we love our country, we love a democratic society, and so we have to move our feet.”

What is striking about Lewis’ faith was that he felt no bitterness to those who beat him and other protestors. He saw them as children of God who had been taught hate. And in the years since the Civil Rights Movement, some of those who had participated in the persecution of its members, sought to reconcile with Lewis because they were so powerfully moved by his capacity to love.

Respected by Democrats and Republicans alike as a person of deep integrity, he served for 33 years in Congress. His words, “You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone — any person or any force — dampen, dim or diminish your light” speak to Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world... No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand...In the same way, let your light shine before others...”(Matthew 5:15-16) John Lewis was a light who taught us about the dignity and worth of all humans. He embodied Christ’s love.

Prayer: O God of justice and mercy, we give you thanks for Christian leaders such as John Lewis, who with courage and faith speak powerfully against all forms of oppression. May he continue to serve as an example of integrity and wisdom to all who lead or wish to lead us as a nation. Amen.

Devotion provided by Rev. Susan Roddey, Director of Spiritual Life at Abernethy Laurels