This week we’re talking about heroes of the faith from this past century, and in light of our society’s racial tension I couldn’t think of a better hero to highlight than the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Mrs. Rosa Parks.
Before I read Eric Metaxas’s Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness, I only knew the basic facts about Rosa Parks’s bravery when ordered to give up her seat on the bus. She captured my eye in high school when I first learned that a tiny, gracious, rule-abiding woman refused to give up her seat because in her soul she knew it wasn’t right. The thing that stuck out to me then was that there were three other people on her row that also had to give up seats, and they all did, but Mrs. Parks stood her ground. Alone, she remained seated knowing that this could get her arrested and possibly beaten. The tenacity and resilience left me fan-girling.
For the longest time I wrongly assumed frustration with the status quo was the fuel for this righteous resilience, but after reading Metaxes’s account of her story I realized that her faith was the fuel that sustained the fire, not frustration.
Mrs. Parks grew up deeply connected to the Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church where her uncle was the pastor. Daily devotions played a significant roll in her development, and as she got older she would rehearse Scripture to herself to help her have courage and pursue peace whenever she would encounter racist persecution on her walks to and from school, (Metaxes, p. 142).
She said in her book Quiet Strength: The Faith, the Hope, and the Heart of a Woman Who Changed a Nation that the Bible and “Its teachings became a way of life and helped me in dealing with my day-to-day problems.” So when asked to give up her seat, she was no longer afraid. In her book she stated, “I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face. God did away with all my fear.”
So why am I giving you a brief overview of a story that many of us hold dear in our hearts?
Because more often than not, we get so caught up in the mission that we forget to pay attention to what fuels it. But with Mrs. Parks, faith and mission were intertwined. You see, her faith fueled the mission.
Years before she would ever step foot on that bus she was deeply connected to a family and church family that helped her grow in her faith. She memorized Bible verses and became intimately acquainted with a Holy God who is close to the broken-hearted and who is an eternal refuge for His people. She knew the Lord and knew that since God made ALL men and women in His image, it was her duty to be a beacon of restoration in a society that was living in darkness. She chose to live by Dr. King Jr.’s words, “Some of us must bear the burden of trying to save the soul of America.” And her faith propelled her to do so.
The Book of James says it this way,
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, a tiny woman chose to allow her faith to fuel her good works, and her spark of courage lit a fire in our nation and changed our world. And today what I know is this: The world is just as sinful as it was when Mrs. Parks held her seat on that bus, and God’s people are still called to be restoration in a broken world.
After some reflection, which do you tend to lean towards – faith or works? Why do you think that is?
Where are you called to be on mission?
How do you foster a faith the produces works?
If you could change ONE thing about the world, what would it be? How can you take one step towards that today?