I've decided that it's time to read a book on Martin Luther King, Jr., not only because of his worthy cause of social and racial equality, but because I want to immerse myself in his incredible use of language, imagery, and persuasion.
I recently heard a quote that he paraphrased from its original, which I'd never heard before. (How did I miss this all my life?) The MLK quote is about the moral arc of the universe, though long, ultimately bending toward justice, which is paraphrased from the original by Theodore Parker in the 1850s: "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice." (Apparently, there has been some controversy over the origin of the quote, which you can read about here.) I love this image of the moral arc of the universe. And I say yes to it--though it may be a slow fight, justice will ultimately succeed. That is what we hope, isn't it?
Natural law, deep within human nature, fights against injustice in the world. We've all had that experience when we hear about an injustice and our immediate response is: "It's not fair!" Kids are great at this. They demand equal treatment. Siblings must get the same gift, the same treatment, etc. But adults are good at it too. When friends hurt us or treat us as we don't deserve, when an employer shows favoritism, or when we are punished for things we didn't do, we too rail against the unfairness of it all. We demand justice.
On this Christmas week, I am thinking about Dr. King, moral arcs of the universe, justice, and a situation that was not fair at all. A baby, a manger, a young pregnant woman--shut out in the bitterness of that Christmas night. What would it take to right the wrongs in the universe? What would it take to fix the injustice of it all?
It would take an infant, a small, helpless infant to bring us back to God. It would take a sacrifice to fix us, broken, hurting, and in need of restoration. It would take someone to heal the broken and to balance the injustice. It would take a child who would become a man to seek the suffering and take that suffering to the cross to ultimately bring about what is good and whole. It would take Jesus.
That man did not deserve a painful, humiliating death. It was not fair, but it was perfect. It was not just, but it was good. God, the author of justice, the maker of goodness, knew just what we needed: a Savior, who came, wrapped in swaddling clothes, a baby crying in the night. What we received was perfect love, forgiveness, and hope from this unassuming child, tucked away in a Bethlehem stable. That moral arc of the universe bent toward the stable on that Christmas night. We got something better than justice: we got what we did not deserve. Thanks be to God!