Does your faith need strengthening? Are you confused and wondering if Christianity is really "The Truth?" "Fight for Your Faith" is a blog filled with interesting and thought provoking articles to help you find the answers you are seeking. Jesus said, "Seek and ye shall find." In Jeremiah we read, "Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall seek for Me with all your heart." These articles and videos will help you in your search for the Truth.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Do All Paths Lead to God?

A compilation

There is a common belief today that “all roads lead to God.” While it is noble to respect each other’s religious faith, the Bible teaches that the only way a person can be reconciled to God is on God’s terms...

Jesus Christ claims to be the only way to eternal salvation. In his own words Jesus declared: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”1

Logically, if there really is a God, then we must come to him by his own prescribed way! That prescribed road, according to the God of the Bible, is by faith in Jesus Christ. Religions are based on various systems of works, whereas Christianity is based on Jesus and what he has already done for us.

Therefore ... [i]t cannot be true that “all roads lead to God.” The various teachings about God from different religions contradict each other in critical ways. God cannot at the same time be both impersonal and personal, both singular and triune, both finite and infinite, both knowable and unknowable.

There is no way to reconcile the various worldviews, such as pantheism, monotheism, and polytheism. Therefore, logically, either none of them—or only one—is true! The real issue is Truth, an issue of infinite importance.—From crossway.org2

Religious pluralismo

The religious pluralism that gives me pause is not merely the reality of diversity of religious beliefs in a culture—a pluralism of views—and our obligation to live in peace with those who do not share our own convictions. That strikes me as self-evident.

The pluralism that concerns me [are the following views]: That, generally speaking, all religions are each, on their own terms, legitimate roads to God. God has somehow ordained various paths for various people and diverse cultures. Therefore, no one is within his rights saying that his religion is better than anyone else’s. God is bigger than our limited theological categories, some would say (or, according to bumper-sticker logic, “God is too big to fit into one religion.”). Christ is the path for Christians, but others have legitimate paths of their own…

Christians reject pluralism, in part, because defining elements of different religions contradict each other. Judaism teaches Jesus is not the Messiah. Christianity teaches He is. Jesus either is the Messiah or He is not. Both groups can’t be right.

The notion that Christianity and Judaism are somehow equally true is contradictory, like square circles. Other examples abound. What happens when we die? Some religions promote Heaven and Hell. Others teach reincarnation. Still others say there is no conscious afterlife at all, only the grave.

When we shuffle off this mortal coil, we may go to Heaven or Hell, or we might be reincarnated, or we could disappear altogether. But we can’t do them all at the same time. Someone is mistaken. It’s possible all of these options are false, but they cannot all be true.

No possible future discovery is going to repair the core contradictions between religions. Rather, exploration complicates the issue. The more we discover about basic beliefs of various faiths, the more complex the problem of harmonizing becomes.

Appealing to the ubiquity of something like the “golden rule” is no help. It is a moral action guide that says almost nothing about any religion’s fundamental understanding of the shape of the world. Profound contradictions between foundational beliefs are not removed by pointing out shared moral proverbs. Contradictory claims cannot be simultaneously true. Religious pluralism self-destructs.

I guess someone could respond that from God’s perspective, the details don’t matter. He is satisfied with any sincere religious effort. But how would anyone know this? This claim is an article of faith, a leap of hope that turns out to be contrary to the teachings of many religions, especially Christianity.

Any informed Christian can immediately see the challenge religious pluralism presents for the Great Commission, the authority of Scripture, the uniqueness of Christ, etc. Clearly, those who follow Jesus and understand the New Testament teaching on the work of the cross—and also for those who take the first of the Ten Commandments in its plain and obvious sense—cannot make peace with pluralism no matter how politically incorrect it is to oppose it.—Greg Koukl3

Why the name of Jesus?

The Bible not only tells us that “God is a spirit” but also that “God is love.”4 God is the Spirit of love, the Great Spirit, the Creator. What is God like? He’s love. And what did God do to prove that He is love, that He loves us? “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”5 God gave “His only begotten Son,” Jesus. He was separated from Him and let Him suffer a cruel, horrible death for us, for our sakes. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”6 Jesus is the manifestation of the love of God.

“Why can’t you just leave Jesus out of it?” some people ask. “Why do you have to use that name? Why does He always have to be the symbol? Why can’t you just say God and speak of God only? We could accept it much easier if you wouldn’t insist on using the name of Jesus.”

If He really was God’s Son, and God had chosen Jesus to reveal Himself to the world and to show His love, then God Himself has insisted on it. “Love Me, love My Son.” These are God’s conditions, not ours. “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.”7 God has insisted that we recognize and love His Son, and Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.”8

Jesus made the way. He is the way! “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”9 There is only “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”10 And, “no man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.”11

No man can approach God directly. We have to go through Jesus, who said, “I and My Father are one.”12 Prior to His incarnation here on earth, He and the Father were together in personal heavenly fellowship, which He had to forsake while He was down here with us. Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed, “And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”13 We’re also told that “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”14

Jesus actually renounced the rights of His citizenship in heaven, and “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.”15 He adapted Himself to our bodily form and conformed to our human ways of life, so that He might understand and love us better, and communicate with us on the lowly level of our own human understanding. In a sense He became a citizen of this world, a member of humanity, a man of flesh, in all points like as we are, in order that He might reach us with His love, prove to us His compassion and concern, and help us understand His message in simple terms that we could understand.

“Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.”16

Published on Anchor January 2019. Read by Reuben Ruchevsky. https://anchor.tfionline.com/post/do-all-paths-lead-god/

Notes:

1 John 14:6.
2 https://www.crossway.org/tracts/do-all-roads-lead-to-god-ats-4399.
3 Greg Koukl, The Ambassador’s Guide to Pluralism (Stand to Reason, 2010).
4 1 John 4:8.
5 John 3:16.
6 1 John 4:9.
7 1 John 2:23.
8 John 14:6.
9 Acts 4:12.
10 1 Timothy 2:5.
11 John 1:18.
12 John 10:30.
13 John 17:5.
14 John 1:1,14.
15 2 Corinthians 8:9.
16 Philippians 2:5–10.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Four Marks of a True Disciple

By David Platt
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. 

(Matthew 4:18-22 ESV) 

A disciple is someone who follows Jesus. 

But what does that word "follow" mean? 

Draw your attention to four implications that spring from this word "follow" for these fishermen, and then by extension for us. So what does it mean to "follow Jesus"? I think this text answers that question in at least four ways. 

1. A true disciple lives with radical abandonment for His glory 

First, to follow Jesus means to live with radical abandonment for his glory. So, you go back to Matthew, chapter 4, verse 17. 

Jesus says, right before this, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." That word "repent" literally means to renounce, to acknowledge, to confess your sin, to express sorrow over your sin, to turn from your sin, to renounce your sin and yourself. 

Jesus later says, in Luke chapter 14 verse 33, "Any of you who does not renounce all that he has, cannot be my disciple." This kind of renouncing is all over this passage. If you think about these disciples and what they were renouncing, what they were abandoning, what they were leaving behind as they followed Jesus. Just think about them for a minute. They were leaving behind their comfort, leaving behind everything that was familiar for them, all that was natural for them, leaving comfort for uncertainty. 

Jesus didn't tell them where they were going. He just told them who they'd be with. There's a whole sermon right there. Followers of Jesus don't always know where they're going, but they always know who they're with. We don't have time for that sermon. So, they were leaving behind their comfort. 

Second, they were leaving behind their careers. This was an abandonment of profession for these guys, at least temporarily. We'll come back to how this applies to us. Just think through the lens of their lives. They were leaving behind comfort, careers. They were leaving behind possessions. They dropped their nets. 

Now, these guys were obviously not the most economically elite in their society, but the fact that they had a boat, a successful trade as fisherman, shows that these men had much to lose in following Christ. We find out later that they still had a boat, still had some various other things, but the reality is at this moment they followed Jesus with nothing in their hands. Nothing in their hands. Their possessions, their position... This is huge. It was common in that day for people to attach themselves to teachers in order to promote themselves. That's why you'd follow a rabbi in that day. 

The problem here with these disciples is that this is not a step up the ladder for them, this is a step down the ladder. The rabbi they were following would eventually find himself crucified as a criminal on a cross. They were leaving behind their families. James and John leave their father. 

They're not the only ones to do this. Remember Luke, chapter 9, where Jesus says to a man who just wants to just go back and say goodbye to his family. He says, "Don't look back. Put your hand to the plow. Look forward." Their families, their friends, their safety. This is a rabbi, a teacher, who would soon say to them, "I'm going send you out like sheep among wolves." Not good news. "All men will hate you because of me. They will persecute you." They were abandoning their safety. 

Following Jesus obviously meant leaving behind their sin. That's the core of what it means to repent, to turn from our sin. And all of this pointing ultimately to how they were abandoning themselves. 

This is the message that Jesus would say to them over, and over, and over again. "If you're going to follow after me, you must deny yourself." In a world where everything revolves around protecting yourself, promoting yourself, preserving yourself, entertaining yourself, comforting yourself, taking care of yourself, Jesus says, "Slay yourself." 

So don't buy it. And if you’re a church leader then don't sell it. So many Christians have bought it, and so many church leaders have sold it, this idea that all you need to do is make a decision, pray a prayer, sign a card, become a Christian, and you keep your life as you know it. It's not true. You become a follower of Jesus and you lose your life as you know it. I want to be careful here. 

I'm not saying, nor could I say based on the whole of the New Testament, every follower of Jesus must lose their career, sell, give away all their possessions, leave their family behind, physically die for the gospel. But the New Testament is absolutely clear on these things. For all who follow Jesus, comfort and certainty in this world are no longer our concerns. Our career now revolves around whatever Jesus calls us to do and however he wants to use us in our careers to spread the good news of his kingdom. Our possessions are not our own. 

We no longer live for material pleasure in this world. We forsake material pleasure in this world in order to live for eternal treasure in a world to come. And this could mean any one of us selling everything we have. Position, no longer our priority. When it comes to family, absolutely. 

Based on the whole of the New Testament, we are commanded to honor our parents, to love wife or husband, provide for children. So you can't use passages like this to justify being a lousy son, or daughter, or spouse, or parents, or whatever. Our love for Jesus, according to Matthew, chapter 10, should make love for our closest family members look like hate in comparison. Wherever he says to go, we go, knowing that because self is no longer our god, safety is no longer our priority. 

Image may contain: 14 people, people smiling
I think about two families that we just sent out last month. One moving to the heart of the Middle East, the other to the heart of Central Asia, both among extremely difficult, dangerous to reach people groups. One of these husbands tells our church, "Some of you think that we are being reckless." He's sitting there with his wife and his two young kids, going into the heart of Muslim Middle East. He says, "Some of you think we are being reckless." And he looked at our church and he said, "I think we're in far greater danger of being safe then we are reckless in contemporary Christianity." 

And I agree wholeheartedly. Followers of Christ, we do not bow at the altar of safety in this world. We die to self. We die to sin. We risk our lives in obedience to Him. This is what it means to follow Him. To follow Jesus is to hold loosely to the things of this world, comfort, careers, possessions, position, family, friends, safety, ourselves, to cling tightly to the person of Christ and the mission of His kingdom. 

Now that's... It may sound extreme to some, but don't forget who the "me" is here. To leave behind, lay down and abandon everything in your life doesn't make sense until you realize who Jesus is. When you realize who He is, when you realize who Christ the King is, leaving behind, laying down, abandoning everything in our lives is the only thing that makes sense. 

Look at Matthew 13:44. Jesus tells a story of a man walking in a field who stumbles upon a treasure. Nobody else knows it's there. This guy knows that, "This treasure hidden in a field is worth more that everything I've got put together." So what does he do? He goes, covers it back up, goes, he sells everything he has. The text says with gladness he sells everything he has. People come up to him and say, "You're crazy. What are you doing? Sell everything you have?" 

He says, "I'm going to buy that field over there." They say, "You're going to buy that field? You're nuts." He smiles and says, "I've got a hunch." He smiles. He's doing this with gladness. He's abandoning everything with gladness. Why? Why is he smiling? Because he knows he's found something that's worth losing everything for. Brothers and sisters, we have found in this King someone who is worth losing everything for. 

To follow Christ, to live with abandonment for His glory. Now, some might say to that, "Are you saying that Christianity then is based on what we must do, what we must let go of, extreme things we need to do in order to become a follower of Jesus?" No. So follow with me. 

2. A true disciple lives with joyful dependence on His grace 

Here’s the second reality. In Matthew 4, to follow Jesus, yes, is to live with abandonment for His Glory. But right along side that, to follow Jesus is to live with joyful dependence on His grace, to live with joyful dependence on His grace. So, behold the beauty of God's grace. And these words follow me. Feel this, the wonder of this. 

Jesus taking the initiative to choose his disciples. This is huge. I mentioned it was common in first century Judaism for disciples to attach themselves to a rabbi to study under. But the beauty of what we're seeing here is that these men don't come to Jesus. Jesus comes to them. Jesus initiates the relationship. 

He does here, at the beginning of the New Testament, what God the Father has done all throughout the Old Testament. God choosing Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, choosing the prophets, choosing Israel to be His people. And just as the Father chose in the Old Testament, we've got Jesus saying to His disciples in John 15, "You did not choose me. I chose you." And he didn't choose these guys because of any merit in them. He chose these guys solely because of mercy in Him. 

So, it's this point in commentaries or sermons on Matthew 4 that I sometimes hear people start to describe all the reasons why Jesus would choose fisherman to be his disciples. Because they have this or that skill. They have this perspective or that perspective. If that's the direction we go, we'll miss the point from the start. Jesus did not call these guys because of what they brought to the table. These four guys and the other guys that followed after them, did not have many things at all in their favor. 

Lower class, rural, uneducated Galileans, commoners, nobodies, not well-respected, hardly the cultural elite, not the most spiritually qualified for the task, exceedingly narrow-minded, ignorant, superstitious, full of Jewish prejudices, misconceptions, animosities. This is who Jesus chose. You say, "Well, you're being kind of hard on them." The reality is it's not just them, it's us. It's you and I, in this room, that have nothing to draw Him to us. Sinners, rebels to the core, running from God and the stunning reality of the gospel is that Jesus comes running after us. Jesus, this Jesus, takes the initiative to call us to Himself. 

My wife and I struggled for years to have children. The Lord led us on a journey of adoption. We put a map on the table and said, "Lord, where are you leading us to adopt." And he led us, internationally, to the country of Kazakhstan. I don't think I knew Kazakhstan existed before that process. But after months of praying, we put in an application to adopt a Kazakh child. I remember somebody we ran across, when we told them we were adopting a child, their first response was, "A real one?" No, a plastic one. We're going to put it on our mantle and look at it. Of course we're adopting a real child. 

So, there's a variety of things you don't say to parents that are adopting. That would be, I think, at the top of the list. So, we're walking through this adoption process, which is long and grueling in so many ways. Some of you have been there. Forms, fingerprints, home studies, background checks, physicals. We were trying to meet a particular deadline and had a physical, at one point, that we had to get checked off on. 

So we went to the doctor together and everything was going smooth, my wife and I were there, until we got to the eye chart deal. And I still maintain that the light in this hallway was dim. I went up first. She said, "Cover one eye and start reading." I got, maybe, two rows down and I start struggling and I start thinking, "I can't do this. I can't miss this. We're going to miss our deadline. It will set us back." And so I'm stressed out, and she can tell that I'm getting stressed out, a little flustered. So she says, "Why don't you try the other eye." I said, "Okay, I'll do that." 

But, in my nervousness, I've been pressing down so much on this eye, that when I took it off everything was blurry. I couldn't see the top letter. I went, "Oh, no." And she said, "Sir, why don't you step aside and let your wife come up and do it, and then you can try again." So, all right, I'll do that. So, I'm over here trying to get my eyes right and then finally I get my eyes right. My wife is still going, so I look down and I memorize the letters. 

So, I step back up and just start acing the thing. I'm like, "Ma'am, I can do this with two eyes closed if you want." So, checked that off. We went through this whole process over a year. And then one day, sitting at a computer, I receive this email with a picture of a 10-month old little boy. 

And six years ago this last month, the day after Valentine's day, we walked into an orphanage in this small, obscure city in Kazakhstan and we held this baby boy in our arms. Not long thereafter, he became our son, Caleb. I share that with you. So, picture here, see a parallel with adoption here. Adoption begins with the parents initiative, not with a child's invitation. 

Before Caleb was even born, before he was ever abandoned in that children's hospital in Kazakhstan, he had a mom and dad who were planning to adopt him. And while he was lying alone at night in an orphanage in Kazakhstan, he had a mom and dad who were working to adopt him. One day, when Caleb was placed in the arms of mom and dad, he had no idea of all that had been done completely apart from him to bring him to that point. This orphan boy became our cherished son, not because he pursued us, but because we pursued him before he was ever born. 


So, in light of that picture, I remind you of Ephesians, chapter 1. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will to the praise of His glorious grace.” Oh, Christian, just feel this. Right there. Some people are saying, "I don't know about this predestination stuff." I'm not saying I can explain this, but I am saying that I don't want to take Ephesians 1 out of the Bible. Just feel this, feel this right where you're sitting. 

Before the sun was ever formed, before a star was ever put in the sky, before mountains were put on the land and oceans poured out between them. Before any of that, God Almighty on high set his sights on your soul. And he purposed to save you from your sin. Gracious initiative. So nothing in the Christian life is born out of our merit, everything is born out of His mercy. He takes initiative to choose us. 

Then he provides us with the power to use us. "Follow me," he says, "And I will make you fishers of men." Not, go make fishers of men. "I'm going to do this in you. My grace in you is going to transform you." There's no way these disciples could carry out the commands that Jesus would give them. 

He would have to do this in them. Why does He design it that way? So that He gets the glory through them, through us. You think about these guys. You've got Peter, the disciple with the foot-shaped mouth, who would one day preach the first Christian sermon. And just like that 3,000 plus people are saved. 

All throughout, you can go and all these other guys, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, all these guys... In our lives, God do a work in our lives and the churches we lead for which You alone can get the glory, for which You alone can get the glory. I told the story recently... Just been deeply impacted by some time in India a few months ago. Two guys, Oneal and Hari, chicken farmer and a school superintendent, who three years ago on one of the most unreached, darkest places on the planet, began to share the gospel in one village. Three years later, there are 350 different churches in 350 different villages that have come about from a school superintendent and a chicken farmer. I asked them, "What'd you do?" They said, "Only the hand of God could have done this." 

And my heart leapt inside, and thought, "I want to be a part of something in my life, in this country, for which only God can get the glory for." Disciples being made, churches being multiplied. 


3. A true disciple lives with faithful adherence to Jesus Third thing to follow Jesus is to live with faithful adherence to His person. Jesus is not saying, "Follow this path, follow these rules." He's saying, "I'm the path. I'm the life. I'm the way. Follow Me." He's inviting us into a relationship with him where He is our life. For followers of Christ, Jesus is not part of our life. He is our life. Period. Which then leads into the last truth. 

4. A true disciple lives with urgent obedience to His mission 

Fourth, to follow Jesus is to live with urgent obedience to His mission. "Follow me," Jesus says, "and I will make you fishers of men." So, see it, see it, see it. A proper understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus inevitably leads to making disciples of Jesus. I wrote a book that came out a couple of weeks ago called "Follow Me", and I don't mention that because I'm trying to sell books. I don't make any money off those books. 

The reason I want to even mention that is because I set out to write on disciple-making. I was writing chapters about, “Here is what we need to make disciples. Let's go and make disciples." But as I was writing it, I felt like I was trying to cajole people to go out and make disciples, which seems foreign to the New Testament. 

When Jesus stood with these disciples on the mountain in Matthew 28, at the end of this book, he didn't have to cajole these guys to go and make disciples. He had to tell them to stop and wait, that they'd blow if they didn't have the Holy Spirit. So, what had happened in their understanding of what it means to be a disciple? They'd seen Jesus. They'd lived with Him. They'd seen Him die on a cross, rise from the grave. 

They were ready to go. Their understanding of what it meant to be a disciple was leading them to go and make disciples. So, then I began to think, "What if, what if one of the primary reasons, if not the primary reason, why we have this spectator mentality in the church, and why so many people are sitting passively by when people are on their way to hell around us, and we're just soaking it in the church as spectators on the sidelines, why is this? Could it be because we've misunderstood what it means to be a disciple in the first place? Could it be that we, even as church leaders, have so minimized the magnitude of what it means to follow Him? 

And as a result, we try to cajole people into going and making disciples. When if they understood what it means to be a disciple, we wouldn't have to do any kind of superficial cajoling. They'd be supernaturally compelled to give their lives to this. It's impossible to believe this gospel and to know this Christ and be silent. A privatized faith and a resurrected Christ is practically impossible. So, yes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer has taught us well, that the cost of discipleship is great. 

To live with radical abandonment for His glory, faithful adherence to His person, urgent obedience. This is costly. This could cost us and the people we lead our lives. But I submit to you this morning that the cost of nondiscipleship is far, far, far greater. The cost of nondiscipleship is great for scores of people in the church who are sitting comfortably right now under the banner of Christianity, but have never counted the cost of following Christ. Many eternally deceived. 

There is great cost for all who settle for casual association with Jesus and miss out on the abundance, and satisfaction, and joy that He's designed for us. There's a cost that comes to monotonous routine religious Christianity. So, don't do it and don't lead churches like that. We'll waste our lives away like that, and the cost will be great for us in the church, in our lives. The cost of nominal Christianity will be great for those who are lost in this world, for people in our communities, in our cities, for people groups around the world who will go on without the gospel, because we are content with not making disciples of all the nations. 

Because in our casual approach to Christianity, we are leaving them on a road that leads to an eternal hell. The consequences of casual, cultural Christianity in the world are tragic, eternally tragic. So I urge us, from the beginning of this conference, in view of the majesty of the King who's called us, let's follow Him with abandonment for His glory, with dependence on His grace, with adherence to His person, and with urgent obedience to His mission.

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence

By the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.


Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers. I also want to say that I consider it a great honor to share this program with Dr. Bennett, Dr. Commager, and Rabbi Heschel, some of the distinguished leaders and personalities of our nation. And of course it’s always good to come back to Riverside Church. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it is always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit. I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in the successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellowed [sic] Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:


O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath —
America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1954 [sic]; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I’m speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

And finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1954 — in 1945 rather — after a combined French and Japanese occupation and before the communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony. Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not ready for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination and a government that had been established not by China — for whom the Vietnamese have no great love — but by clearly indigenous forces that included some communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.

After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States’ influence and then by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America, as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.

So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.

Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call “fortified hamlets.” The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.

Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front, that strangely anonymous group we call “VC” or “communists”? What must they think of the United States of America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem, which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the South? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the North” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent communist, and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam, and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will not have a part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them, the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the North, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French Commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which could have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again. When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered.

Also, it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva Agreement concerning foreign troops. They remind us that they did not begin to send troops in large numbers and even supplies into the South until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the North. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than eight hundred, or rather, eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:


Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism (unquote).

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.

I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.

Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

Four: Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.

Five: Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.

Part of our ongoing…part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country, if necessary. Meanwhile… meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is a path now chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing.

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality…and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.

It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not engage in a negative anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions.

It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch antirevolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word” (unquote).

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood — it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.”

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message — of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:


Once to every man and nation comes a moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet ’tis truth alone is strong
Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace.

If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

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