My life overlapped the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by a few months. The famous civil rights activist was murdered before I learned to walk.
At times, I have wondered: Would I have joined with Dr. King in calling for an end to legal racism?
It's easy to believe that I would have taken the unpopular, but just, position. It's easy to think that I would have had the sense of justice and the courage to do the right thing. I could easily see myself marching with Dr. King in the early 1960s, hiding the Jewish people from the Nazis with Corrie ten Boom's family during World War II, or rescuing escaped slaves with the Underground Railroad in the years leading up to the Civil War. But would I have done such noble things?
Jesus had some harsh words for some of his contemporaries who held similar thoughts. He warned, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!" (Matthew 23:29-32).
Jesus' words challenge my pride in what I imagine I would have done. He is not interested in how I would have responded to injustices of the past and the needs of people in a previous generation. Christ is interested in what I am doing today. How do I respond when people are mistreated today? What am I doing today to help those who are in need? Am I willing to take risks? Am I willing to be unpopular for the sake of following Jesus Christ? Do I care about people? Or am I content to condemn a previous generation while taking pride in the fact that I did not participate in their sins?
How am I living today? Am I acting with justice, loving kindness and mercy, and walking humbly with my God?