Michael Jackson had a hit song in 1988, Man in the Mirror, in which he sang that we’re all “victims of a selfish kind of love…and we’ve got to get it right while you got the time.”
This was one of the world’s first music videos and it shows footage of world poverty, bombings, racial bigotry, signs of hatred and scenes of dictators such as Hitler, all mixed with righteous political and religious leaders such as President John F. Kennedy, President Jimmy Carter, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Karamchand “The Mahatma” Gandhi and Mother Teresa. In short, the video shows signs of hate and signs of love in action throughout the world.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on Peter’s selfish response to Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:27-30. After hearing Jesus talk with the rich young ruler, Peter makes the declarative statement, “We have left everything to follow you.” And he follows this statement up with an honest, reflective question, “What then will there be for us?”
Jesus, in Matthew 19:21, tells the rich young ruler, “Sell all you have, give to the poor and follow me.” He turns the world’s value system upside down.
Since Michael’s hit in 1988, the gap between the rich and the poor has grown even wider — so wide, in fact, that it appears we are entering into all out class warfare. Many are trying to ignore the signs and are just sitting on the sidelines; others sense the urgency and know Michael is right. It’s time to take a stand and “make the change.”
God calls each of us to ask ourselves, “Who’s the person in God’s mirror?” “Why do you serve?” asks the Lord Jesus. “Am I, says (Christ), enough, for you, or are you moved more by what I can give you than who I am?”
On Nov. 19, some of us took a stand in an effort to “make the change.” I looked into God’s mirror and admitted to myself that as much as I didn’t want to be marching again — I did it in the 1960s — I must do something now. So, for me, it was time to march and, again quoting Michael, “Get it right while I still got time.”
So when Eric Bracken of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) asked me to join and help lead the 1 Miami March with other faith leaders and the Occupy Miami group, I said yes. Now clearly a part of the “99%,” the plan was simple: march down Brickell Avenue, in rush hour traffic. We were to form up at 4 p.m. at Jose Marti Park in Miami but I couldn’t find the place and was late.
Stuck in rush hour traffic watching the marchers pass by, I pulled into the first metered parking space and started running through the crowd until in my rightful leadership place. Glad to finally be marching, it felt good to know God was watching me do something through His two-way mirror.
After marching farther and walking looking for my car, at a meter, by a fence, near a park, which is where I thought I left it, I learned an even greater lesson. Looking for more than two hours, exhausted from walking for more than five hours, I flopped down on a park bench to just relax.
Reluctantly, I had to call my wife Clarissa to rescue me. As I sat waiting, a formerly homeless man named Sadi comforted me, telling me his life story and that there were no meters where I had been looking. “Your car must be someplace else,” he said.
I didn’t realize he was right until I was in Clarissa’s car back-tracking along the route I had driven. I saw my car parked right where I left it, at a meter, by a fence, near a park. A sign read, “Welcome to Jose Marti Park” – which was on other side of where we had been sitting. Looking back now, I see Sadi was God’s mirror. Through him, God was trying to save me.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: PHOTO COURTESY OF ONEMIAMINOW.ORG
BRIDGING THE GAP: Hundreds of people from various groups joined Occupy Miami demonstrators at the Bank of America Building in downtown Miami on Nov. 2.