Tuskegee, Alabama. February 4, 1913. Leona and James McCauley welcome their first child into the world, a girl they name after Leona’s mother, Rose.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of that child’s death. She died at age 92, a heralded leader of the civil rights movement: Rosa McCauley Parks.
What makes Parks’s story so powerful?
Her bravery is recounted in classrooms across the country and honored by the world’s greatest leaders. Parks received numerous awards in her later years, including the Congressional Gold Metal and the President’s Medal of Freedom.
For someone born into relative anonymity, she died a national hero.
The influence of her story lies in the contrast it showcases. Parks endured life as a black woman living in Alabama during the early 20th century, with all of the burdens that entailed.
Yet in her decision to resist the system of oppression she had so long been victim of, she maintained a striking poise and grace in the face of hatred and injustice.
That famous December bus ride crystalizes the triumph of the civil rights movement, love’s victory over hate.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated so well in his sermon “Loving Your Enemies,”
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
In an obviously different way than Parks, we each experience hate and injustice in this fallen world. The workplace can often be particularly brutal. Professional ambition combined with personal insecurities can be toxic.
What would it look like to engage with our enemies, workplace or otherwise, in the way Rosa Parks did?
The power of love to change hearts is not an idea unique to Parks herself or even to King. The gospel is the one true fountain of grace by which we can learn to love our enemies.
Christians have a deeply personal insight into this dynamic as we were all once enemies of God, as Romans 5:10 reminds us:
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Thanks be to the Lord that he did not leave us as enemies but reconciled us as friends and even sons and daughters! His love in the face of hate gave us life.
As children of God, let us take the lesson, embodied so well in the story of Rosa Parks, to treat our enemies as friends, even in the face of injustice and hate.
Let us love, not because we have power in ourselves, but because we were once the ones who hated and we were healed by love.
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