Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech outlines the wrongful injuries that result from racism, laying a foundation that could be used for righteous anger against a nation that falsely promises equality. Yet, King does not build a future of revenge, but frames America’s debt to “the Negro people [as] a bad check.” He then develops a way forward by describing a faith in America that “refuses to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” King transitions from anger, the basis of revenge, to debt that seeks accountable, responsible action. King concludes with a unifying vision that binds the true freedom of the nation to its ability to advance together as a community where former tormentors and the tormented are transformed into a united family.
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.…
I have a dream that one day…in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
When the Lord of the universe stands against Job’s three accusers and vindicates him, Job might easily feel justified to retaliate against them. Our history books brim with cycles of revenge that span generations. Unless a new path forward can be imagined, the default response of oppressed people is usually violent. Yet, when God vindicates us, God also gives us larger dreams to pursue, visions that move us forward.
Why is it so common for us to seek retaliation when we are injured? If payback is our default response, what breaks the escalating cycle of revenge?
God of new possibilities, cycles of revenge are always at our doorstep. Open your way to us so we may move forward. Teach us to dream anew. Amen.