How Can We Serve?
In a sermon given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. two months before his assassination, he uses a passage from the Bible, Mark chapter 10, to talk about the “Drum Major Instinct”—a human instinct that all human kind has—“a desire to be out in front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first . . . something that runs the whole gamut of life” beginning in childhood and throughout adulthood. James and John, two disciples of Jesus, asked him if they could have a special place: “Let one of us sit at your right side and the other at your left in your glory.”
Dr. King says that Jesus responds to James and John’s request to be in front of all the others by saying to them:
“I see you want to be first. You want to be great. You want to be important. You want to be significant. Well you ought to be. If you’re going to be my disciple, you must be…Yes, don’t give up this instinct. It’s a good instinct if you use it right. It’s a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity…I can’t give you greatness. And I can’t make you first…You must earn it.”
The challenge for us is to “harness the drum major instinct”. According to Dr. King:
“True greatness comes not by favoritism but by fitness. And the right hand and the left are not mine to give, they belong to those who are prepared…and so Jesus gave us a new form of greatness. If you want to be important, wonderful! If you want to be recognized, wonderful! If you want to be great, wonderful! But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant…by giving that definition of greatness it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of Relativity to serve. . . you only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”
Dr. King wanted to be remembered after his death in this same way. He goes on to say:
“…If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice…a drum major for peace…a drum major for righteousness …I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind
…If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain…I want to be on your (Jesus’) right or best side, not in terms of some political kingdom or ambition, but…so that we can make of this old world a new world.”
This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.
We as a community have to work together, discuss problems before they capture and destroy us.