Bitterness and Freedom of Faith

A year ago we celebrated the Church Health Center’s 25th anniversary celebration at a downtown banquet. People literally came from all over the world. Our keynote speaker was Andrew Young, 45 years and one day after he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel with Martin Luther King, Jr. and saw his friend assassinated.

It was an amazing night. At age 82, Andrew Young said to me, “I’m not good at giving speeches. I tend to ramble.” (You probably think I tend to ramble.) He said, “Rather than me giving a speech, I would like to just sit on the stage and you ask me questions.”

With hundreds of people listening in, I got to ask him the questions I had burning in me.   There were several things I came to understand about Andrew Young through his answers. Here are two that have stuck with me in the last year.

1. Andrew Young is not bitter about what happened. You would think he would be. He’s had 46 years now to get over it, so maybe he was at first. But he’s not bitter. He went on to a distinguished career in public service untinged by bitterness toward what happened that April evening.

2. Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, and that entire group were not out to change the world. That was not their objective. They were not all that interested in fighting racism. They were interested as ministers, and to this day Andrew Young sees himself as a minister. He’s been the mayor of Atlanta, he’s been a congressman for many years, he’s been the representative for the United States to the United Nations. And still he thinks of himself as Reverend Andrew Young. Martin Luther King also thought of himself first and foremost as a pastor.

So I asked Andrew, “On that day, what was it like to stand on the balcony?”  

He said, “You know, had King not been killed I don’t think his message would have been heard.”

Young believes that on that day Martin Luther King, Jr.’s spirit was freed, and as a result he changed the world.

April 4 marked the forty-sixth anniversary of King’s death. Let us remember his work rose out of his conviction that the gospel was for all people, and that at the heart of God we find justice.

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