People like John Lewis don’t come along very often. He was a truly extraordinary man. We owe it to ourselves and to him to let his life and message sink deep into us as we bid him farewell.
Until a few years ago, when I listened to this wonderful conversation between Krista Tippett and Lewis, I didn’t have a proper understanding of John Lewis the man. I had known something of his public life. I knew he was a long-time Georgia Congressman. I knew he had been a very young, front-line leader in the civil rights movement—one who had received some savage beatings and imprisonment, despite his unwavering commitment to non-violent resistance.
But this conversation with Krista Tippett gave me a peek into the depth of John Lewis’ soul—his courage, his wisdom, his deep love for humanity, his capacity to forgive, his intelligence, his faith, his hope. We would do well to pause to consider his legacy and his powerful message, which is more urgent now than ever.
In his remarkable 2017 book Across that Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America, Lewis wrote beautifully about how we can bring light into the world.
“Our actions entrench the power of the light on this planet. Every positive thought we pass between us makes room for more light. And if we do more than think, then our actions clear the path for even more light. That is why forgiveness and compassion must become more important principles in public life.”
And, finally, consider this powerful passage from the book, which has the feeling of scripture to me. I think it expresses best what Lewis earnestly tried to embody in living his remarkable life.
“Anchor the eternity of love in your own soul and embed this planet with goodness. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.”
The wish “Rest in peace” takes on new layers of meaning to me as I send it along to John Lewis with a prayer of thanks.