May 9, 2013 | 9:14 a.m.
By Tricia Theurer, Communications and Marketing Specialist for University Relations
A full house, as well as an overflow crowd watching via video in a nearby academic lounge, greeted speaker Bernice A. King, the youngest daughter of the late Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King, during a recent College of Arts & Sciences chapel. King was on campus as part of the second annual Faith & Values Symposium, which brings powerful preaching and messages from Christian leaders around the world to the Bethel campus each year. King’s father was scheduled to speak at Bethel shortly before he was assassinated in April 1968.
She is the chief executive officer of The King Center, which was founded by her mother in 1968. Nationally and internationally known as a powerful and motivating speaker, King began her oratorical journey at age 17 when she spoke in her mother’s place at the United Nations. She holds master of divinity and doctorate of law degrees.
King began her talk on peace and forgiveness by thanking “my supervisor and boss, God the father, for my salvation.” That salvation was both spiritual and physical. Angry at the world over the childhood losses of her father and grandmother to gun violence, as well as the mysterious death of an uncle, King recalled that she considered taking her own life. Knife in hand, she “had an experience with the Holy Spirit like never before.” He told her to put the knife down, saying, “You have a call to ministry. People will miss you.” Then, she said, “God resurrected me out of that state. At that point, I invited Jesus Christ into my life.”
Inviting Christ into her life meant she had to let go of her anger and hurt and instead forgive. “I visited a place of anger,” she said, “but I didn’t pay the mortgage!” She continued, “People won’t know how to forgive unless we forgive. You are the answer. We are the answer to this dark, broken world, which is in need of reconciliation.”
Saying “God set us free through Christ, but we’ve locked ourselves up through unforgiveness,” she pointed to her father as someone who lived on higher ground. “My father was a free man. He was able to choose a higher form of living: nonviolence. It’s easy to hang on to anger. It’s much more challenging—it’s a choice—to release that anger.” She continued, “True transformation starts with forgiveness.” And she shared a phrase of her father’s: “Forgiveness is not an occasional act but a permanent attitude.”
Citing Matthew 5:19, she said that besides being asked to forgive, we are also called to be peacemakers. “Our world is calling for peacemakers. It’s difficult to be a peacemaker if you don’t have peace with God Himself,” she explained. “Peace is not just the absence of tension but the presence of justice.”
King challenged the Bethel community to live according to the kingdom of God, as her father did when he spoke about inequalities, hatred, and hostility. “Peacemakers have to stir some things up,” she stressed. She continued by asking the audience, “Are you going to serve the way of the world? Are you going to serve your emotions?... or are you going to serve God?”
Following the chapel address, King answered questions and signed copies of her latest book,Hard Questions, Heart Answers, for the Bethel community and area pastors.