A Reminder from 1961…

Ian McClellan   -  

February is Black History Month which should prompt us to think deeply about how great black leaders have shaped our world. Of course, everyone goes right to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but who inspired MLK?

Who helped shape the heart and mind of one of the most influential leaders of modern times?? 

The answer: Howard Thurman 

Howard Thurman was a prominent American theologian known for his radical non-violent approach to civil rights and mentoring many of the movement’s foremost leaders, including MLK himself.

When you read the words of Thurman, it is easy to see how the gospel shapes the heart and mind of this unsung hero of civil rights. His words are just as convicting today as they were in 1961. Here is an excerpt from his book The Inward Journey

24. Keep Open the Door of Thy Heart

Keep open the door of thy heart.

It matters not how many doors are closed against thee.

It is a wondrous discovery when there is disclosed to the mind the fact that there may be no direct and responsible relations between two human beings that can determine their attitude toward each other. We are accustomed to thinking that one man’s attitude toward another is a response to an attitude. The formula is very neat: love begets love, hate begets hate, indifference begets indifference. Often this is true. Again and again we try to mete out to others what we experience at their hands. There is much to be said for the contagion of attitudes. There are moments in every man’s life when he tries to give as good or as bad as he gets. But this presupposes that the relationship between human beings is somehow mechanical, as if each person is utterly and completely separated. This is far from the truth, even though it may seem to square with some of the facts of our experienced behavior.

There is a profound ground of unity that is more pertinent and authentic than all the unilateral dimensions of our lives. This a man discovers when he is able to keep open the door of his heart. This is one’s ultimate responsibility, and it is not dependent upon whether the heart of another is kept open for him. Here is a mystery: if sweeping through the door of my heart there moves continually a genuine love for you, it by-passes all your hate and all your indifference and gets through to you at your center. You are powerless to do anything about it. You may keep alive in devious ways the fires of your bitter heart, but they cannot get through to me. Underneath the surface of all the tension, something else is at work.It is utterly impossible for you to keep another from loving you. True, you may scorn his love, you may reject it in all ways within your power, you may try to close every opening in your own heart — it will not matter. This is no easy sentimentality but it is the very essence of the vitality of all being. The word that love is stronger than hate and goes beyond death is the great disclosure to the one who has found that when he keeps open the door of his heart, it matters not how many doors are closed to him. 


We see in this writing echos of deep theological conviction, including:

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” — Matthew 5:44 

  “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” — 1 John 4:20

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” — Romans 5:8


SO What are a couple of my takeaways??? 

  1. For the Jesus follower, an eye for an eye is nothing compared to an eye with an eye. 

Jesus himself condemns the old law of an eye for an eye in the beatitudes (Matt 5). And let’s be honest; an eye for an eye might be our default setting.

Yet, Jesus says in response to aggression, offer up the other cheek. Offering up the other cheek is everything BUT passive. Offering up the other cheek is love in ACTION. It’s not running away, avoiding, or overlooking. It is standing firm by returning hate with love.

What would happen the next time someone comes to snag away your eye? You offer them the other eye? An eye with an eye.

  1. Don’t be a mirror to other people’s attitudes but a picture of God’s character. 

Especially in tense situations, it is easy to fall into the rhythm of returning every negative attitude we receive with the same or equal veracity. We must remember that the grace of Jesus was extended to us, even when we were still sinning.

When we extend grace, we reflect Christ’s essential characteristics. It is the grace of Christ that broke through our hard hearts. How much more do we believe this can help in our relational conflicts?

Rather than returning negativity with more negativity, we should extend the grace of God as it has been extended to us, freely and unconditionally.



To celebrate Black History month, we want to give everyone a FREE GIFT! 

Right Now Media is a Christian video resource with thousands of videos to help move you along in your journey with Jesus. River Valley Rockford has paid for this resource so that you can have it for FREE!!!

All you have to do is register at this link!!

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month in February, here is my suggestion on where to start with Right Now Media…

Enjoy this great Study by Dr. Tony Even called ONENESS EMBRACED.