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How Much Can We Bear?
by Bruce Newman
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Humankind cannot bear very much reality. Ė T.S. Eliot

I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. Ė 1 Cor. 3:2

On the way home earlier this evening from picking up my son at work, I passed by a billboard displaying a web site address: whokilledMLK.com.

When I got home I logged on to my laptop and checked it out. The site tries to sell a new book co-authored by John Larry Ray, brother of James Earl Ray, the man convicted for killing Dr. King. Thatís just too many Rays. I wouldnít be surprised to learn that the true killer was their half-brother, Ray Rey Ray. And whatís with folks who have to use all three of their names? Why is it always Hillary Rodham Clinton, Anna Nicole Smith or Sarah Jessica Parker? When my parents used all three of my names I knew I was in trouble. Do these people just know theyíll always be in trouble?

Sorry for getting off on a tangent. Anyway, in essence Mr. Ray presents an avalanche of documentation and background to show why his brother couldnít be Dr. Kingís killer, and that a government conspiracy was involved. Now, what is the average person to do? They stopped listening to the boy who cried wolf on his third lie. If there was a breathalyser test for lying like there is for measuring alcohol on a driverís breath, I think it would be safe to say that weíre so far over the limit in our society that the language to describe it hasnít been invented. How are we to judge such things in the sea of lies in which we live? Truth is, sometimes we just canít.

Was there a government conspiracy behind Kingís murder? Maybe. We know that government specializes in lying. So much so that it wouldnít surprise me to learn that every government official has to secretly pass a lie potential test instead of a lie detector test. But, when it comes down to it, we simply donít know. I think we all suspect that thereís a whole lot of dirt thatís been done thatís never seen the light of day and probably wonít until God Himself pulls back the rug. But, we donít know the details.

I think a more important question is why we are so ready to believe falsehood. There is a natural progression from childhood to adulthood in which what we believed as a child is stripped from us in layers. Itís called maturation.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. Ė 1 Cor. 13:11

The maturation process is painful enough in itself. But when false beliefs have been bred into you they act like an addiction. Therefore the pain is greater when you are forced cold turkey off that addiction. Instead of being stripped away in layers itís torn off like a scab. For some thatís an introduction to reality they turn into clearer vision. Others hold on to the addiction. Parents and spouses divorce. Mothers kill their children. Respected fathers are discovered to have molested their daughter for years. A well liked deacon turns out to be a serial killer with a twenty year run. The list is long and we hear another addition almost daily now. They are the scabs torn off.

Letís take Dr. King for example. He almost has the status of a saint. There probably arenít too many black folk you could say something bad about him to and not get a bad reaction, maybe even start a fight. But can we really bear the human reality of the man? Itís known that he committed adultery. He also smoked, though he would not do so in public because he was conscious of his image before children. Yet in every black church without air conditioning you could find the faithful fanning themselves with those cardboard fans with Dr. Kingís face on them. Somewhat of a dichotomy, wouldnít you say?

A church lady once told me that Dr. King had only operated in natural strength. Thatís the kind of things Pentecostal and charismatic types like to say when they havenít the slightest idea what theyíre talking about. My response was, if thatís the case, why hasnít your supernatural strength produced a better Christian walk than Kingís? If looks could have killedÖ

Church folk are good at setting up an obstacle course of abstract moral rules that are more important to them then they are to God. So if you smoke or say ďdamnĒ youíre tagged as an obvious sinner. But when the brothers and sisters hit Golden Corral on Sunday after church like a swarm of locusts and eat until they can hardly move, thatís fellowship, which covers a multitude of gluttony. And we all know that itís alright to stuff our temples like we do our closets and cause long term health problems as long as we avoid the obvious sins.

If youíre familiar with the life of King David the life of M.L. King should not take you by surprise. If youíre familiar with your own insides it shouldnít take you by surprise. Our Savior was nailed to a cross and we canít handle the reality that even the best human lives are flawed and inconsistent? If we canít deal with the latter it just means weíve never really dealt with the former.

Christ continues to feed us via the Holy Spirit. Iím glad that He condescends to feed us with milk because we arenít, as Eliot said, able to bear much reality. Thatís His mercy. But we know itís not His desire. A milk drinker can never be more than a child, which means he never puts away childish things and therefore never develops the needed skills to deal competently in this life.

For every one that uses milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. Ė Heb. 5:13

Milk can be as addicting as pornography or cigarettes when used to avoid growth. When the word of God is boiled down to some moral rules about what we no longer do, what we donít watch or where we donít go, itís not only reduced to milk but powdered milk at that.

The word is said to be sincere milk (1 Pet. 2:2) that causes growth toward the meat eating stage. So the proper order is milk that leads to meat. Instead many stay with a powdered milk of abstract moral rules (not true moral law) that leads only to more powdered milk. Itís just another way of putting a yoke on ourselves that nobody has ever been able to bear (Acts 15:10).

Itís an election year and the politicians tell us what they will do for us. Since neither human nature nor our system of government were designed for what a president or anyone else will do for us, these promises represent addiction to a continual milk diet. Many are willing to accept the bottle, be burped and tucked in.

Dr. King, whatever his failings, seemed willing to bear something and exhibited some skill in the word of righteousness. If thatís natural as opposed to the ďsupernaturalĒ laziness of popular Christianity, Iíll take it.

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