Excerpts from Dr. King’s sermon On Being a Good Neighbor
By JoAnn Flett |Director at CFB
In the story of the Good Samaritan Jesus says in essence I do not know his name. “He is anyone toward whom you are neighborly. He is anyone who lies in need at life’s roadside.” The Samaritan had the capacity for love. He had an insight into that which is beyond the eternal accidents of race, religion, and nationality.
Dr. King recounts a story of a car accident where three members of Negro college basketball team were injured. The white ambulance driver said we don’t service Negroes. When driven to the hospital in town they we told they don’t take Negroes. They had to be taken to the colored hospital fifty miles away. By then, one was dead and the other two died thirty minutes later. Probably all three could have been saved if they had been given immediate treatment.
True neighborliness requires personal concern. There is a distinction between enforceable and unenforceable obligations. Enforceable obligations are regulated by the codes of society and law enforcement agencies. Breaking these enforceable obligations, has filled numerous prisons. But unenforceable obligations are beyond the reach of the laws of society. They concern inner attitudes, genuine person to person relations, and expressions of compassion that law books cannot regulate, and jails cannot rectify. Such obligations are met by one’s commitment to an inner law, they are written on the heart.
In our nation today a mighty struggle is taking place. It is a struggle to conquer segregation and its inseparable twin called discrimination that is stripping millions of Black people of their sense of dignity. The law cannot make an employer love an employee, but it can prevent them from refusing to hire me because of the color of my skin. Let us not be misled by those who argue that segregation cannot be ended by law. But acknowledging this, we must admit that the ultimate solution to the race problem lies in the willingness of men to obey the unenforceable. Desegregation will break down the legal barriers and bring people together physically, but something must touch the hearts and souls of men so that they will come together spiritually because it is right. True integration will be achieved by true neighbors who are willingly obedient to unenforceable obligations.
I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you will never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. When Christ died on Calvary, he gave us history’s most magnificent expression of obedience to the unenforceable.
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