Martin Luther King Junior is often quoted as saying he intended to ‘comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’. It is in this same sense that he went on to describe himself as a maladjusted person in one of his essays on nonviolence. In this essay, Dr. King writes thusly:
Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word. It is the word “maladjusted.” Now we should all seek to live a well adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But there are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted…., I call upon you to be as maladjusted as Amos who in the midst of the injustices of his day cried out in words that echo across the generation, “Let judgment run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream…”
Our problem with regard to reaching the world for Jesus the Christ is that we are too comfortable and too well adjusted to the world. We are comfortable, well adjusted negroes. Our churches are getting bigger. We are on television preaching, teaching and reaching our own. We have our own brand names of clothes, magazines, television shows and even take home Oscars and Grammy awards every year. We are so comfortable, and well adjusted, we have completely forgotten that we live in a world that is in desperate need of food, water, clothing and shelter.
We say we don’t know about it. We say no one told us it was going on. We could know if we wanted to. However, knowing requires searching as diligently for the facts, as we search for the missing remote for our big screen TV with the 500 plus digital satellite stations.
We have no desire to look into the facts, the truth of how billions of people die without any record of ever having lived. Eight million people will die this year from hunger alone. Over 6 million children will die from drinking unclean water.
Millions more will suffer, only because they had no choice in the place or circumstance of their birth.
If we wanted to know this firsthand, we could visit these nations, or just read the pertinent publications (by the way, these are not found in the entertainment section of the book racks).
We pronounce dictums on how people should tighten their belts to provide better accountability and strengthen their governments against corruption. The disciples pulled this one on Jesus in Matthew 14:15 “And when it was evening, his disciples came to him saying, ‘this is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves victuals”
They spoke to the Master as though He could not recognize a desert.
They spoke to Jesus as though He was not aware of the circumstances and the plight of the people. They were intent on making excuses for their own indecisiveness and non-commitment to the plight of hungry people. The huge crowd and unpleasant surroundings would allow them to get back to their own agenda of passing out church bulletins and deciding which place the pastor should have to park his Lexus.
In other words, they said, “Jesus, just tell the people to tighten their belts!”
Matthew 14:16 reads “But Jesus said unto them; they need not depart, give ye them to eat.
We are not called upon to examine the reasons for hunger. We are called upon to feed them.
If the 70 plus year old grandmother caring for a half dozen or more grandchildren orphaned by AIDS, tightens her belt on the narrow waist, it causes chaffing and sores on her skin and does nothing to feed the children. The rains have failed again, there is no seed to plant, and the goats have eaten the remaining weeds which may have been used for the meal of the week.
The Kikuyu tribe of Kenya have a proverb that says if you have a visitor come suddenly to your home, you feed them immediately. That is ‘you don’t interview a hungry man.’
We are preaching the gospel of self reliance and morality to people who are dying, not from lack of motivation or morality. No doubt there are parts of this in every scenario. This is not the sole cause for billions of men, women and children who are caught in the spider’s web of poverty. This web has many strands, including bad governance, bad traditions and bad policies. However, some of the stickiest strands of this web are our own indulgences in having the best of everything without considering the cost to the nations of the people providing those things.
We are made rich by their suffering. To paraphrase the prophet Isaiah who spoke thousands of years ago about the suffering of Christ, I would write “by their stripes, we are well heeled.” Isaiah 53:5
We have become comfortable, well adjusted negroes. We want the biggest diamonds, the shiniest gold, the latest cell phones and the biggest cars. We want these things without regard to how our comfort impacts the welfare of people in the poor nations of the world.
Our socio-economic and political gains in the US have been a wasted legacy if we only use them for our comforts. Are you disturbed by this? Are you made to feel uncomfortable? Are you feeling maladjusted? I hope so.
As Dr. King would have said, we should never adjust to being comfortable and undisturbed by the extreme poverty around us. Jesus the Christ was more than just ill at ease when He saw the masses of people hungry for bread made of wheat, after He Himself had preached to them. He recognize that though ‘man does not live by bred alone’, man does indeed need bread!
All around the world, people are growing up in situations which have nothing to do with the choices they have personally made. They are desperate for the common comforts of food, water, clothing and shelter. What are you going to do about it?
Don’t remain in your comfortable, adjusted frame of mine. Become maladjusted in this society which tells you to ‘chill out, take it easy, don’t get so excited and, my favorite of all, ‘I did not know!’
We have been given a legacy of suffering and overcoming. Let us use that to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Let us go into the world and make a difference for Christ. He will ask lots of questions at the end of all of this. To find comfort and to be well adjusted for the questions, just read ahead for the test.
‘What have you done to the least of these?’ Matthew 25:40-46.