Rev. Dr. Massey delivers second Martin Luther King Jr. celebration lecture on “The Will to Act”
critical time in our nation’s history, there is evident madness being shouted
up and down our streets,” Dr. James Earl Massey said at his second lecture of
the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Fuller Seminary on January 24.
celebrated teacher, author, and preacher who knew Martin Luther King Jr.
personally, and has been nicknamed the “Prince of Preachers,” told the audience
gathered in Travis Auditorium that the United States has been in social and
political disruption and disunity for a long time. He cited the current debate
on gun safety as one example of the dissonance seen today.
Starting with a
passage from Romans 12, in which the apostle Paul urges the church to promote
peace and overcome evil, Massey wove together tales of two courageous actors in
America's history in his lecture titled “The Will to Act.”
His charge was a
“You and I are witnessing
and are living during what might well be called the third American revolution,”
Massey said, explaining that the first revolution culminated in the Declaration
of Independence and the second revolution yielded the freedom of slaves.
Now, he said, “A
third revolution is in progress and it is exactly from you and from me the
moral, the spiritual, and the political will to do this: achieve full equality
for all of our citizens, achieve equitable sharing for all of our citizens and
those who come within our borders. And this: support programs for the common
good. And this: peace. These are goals that demand acting.”
Massey told the
audience that mad ideas and mad deeds are not undermined by being ignored, but
by being challenged by persons of courage, who know the values of life.
Still, there are
many people who see madness and still do not act, Massey said. He gave four
reasons why there is irresolution in the nation today.
people lack the will to act because they don’t view certain acts as madness,
Massey said. The need here is for people to be informed and to inform others
“in order to act wisely, reasonably, and on time,” Massey said.
“Where there is
a lack of information, people do not understand the times,” he said. “This is
why our pulpits are so important. Preachers need to be dealing with the light
of God’s worth shining on the times, so that we can understand how we are to
live in the midst of such times.
people don’t act because they lack courage to risk themselves, Massey said,
noting that while knowledge is needed to defy a madman’s thesis, courage is
needed to oppose a madman’s actions.
A third factor
is misinformation and unbalanced theology, he said, naming stereotypes and
nationalism as examples of ways in which false divisions have been drawn
amongst the children of God.
thinking, misinformation, unbalanced religious views were what impeded the
progress of our nation to becoming a true democracy, which we are not yet,”
And lastly, some
people lack the will to act against madness, because they do not feel
“How true it is
that many of us would not do anything except in our own interest,” Massey
then, is for people, “who know that unfairness—however deeply entrenched and
however well-defended—is unjust, unjustifiable, and ungodly” to follow the
examples set by figures like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. and have
the will to act.
Massey told the
story of Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which freed
slaves in the south. Massey praised Lincoln for his willfull, decisive,
courageous, and prayerful act of humanity, in a time when blacks were
considered a sub-specie—an action that had a personal impact on Massey’s life.
“That paper set
free, not only millions of slaves, but my great-grandmother on my maternal
side,” Massey said. “And it set free the children that were born to her by the
slave master. I knew one of those children because she spent her last years at
our home in Detroit. So, I had first hand contact with someone born in slavery
in my own family. I’m not just talking about. I’m glad Lincoln acted.”
A century later,
Martin Luther King Jr. stepped out determined to take a stand against social
inequity in America and to do something to bring the nation’s conscious into
action, Massey explained. He praised the multitude of courageous citizens who
were willing to suffer gross indignities and join Martin Luther King Jr. in his
Lincoln and King
sprang to action offering insight, courage, and healing when there was a need
to combat mad thought and destructive deeds, Massey said.
And “at this
time, when mad men are again in our street shouting poisonous views, the will
and the wisdom to confront their madness must be within you and me,” he urged.
“Helped by God, we too can be agents of change. The scriptural mandate remains
clear: Do not be overcome by evil, but act to overcome evil with good.”