Recently I spent some time with Malcolm X. Well, not really because he’s dead. But I did watch a movie about him which I found very interesting. In fact, I believe there are some pointers that Christ followers can learn from his life experience. Malcolm Little was an African American man who came to Islam while in prison from 1946 to 1952. Once leaving prison, Malcolm eventually rose to become a national speaker for the Nation of Islam. He eventually left that group in 1964 shortly before he was assassinated.
Now don’t get me wrong. Obviously I’m not supporting the Nation of Islam. I am in no way agreeing with Islam in general. Islam is a false religion and Mohamed was a false prophet. That statement does not mean that I hate Muslims, but is rather an assessment of the facts. I am not endorsing the methodology Malcolm advocated through most of his public life. But I am suggesting that we can learn a thing or two from the way the Nation of Islam influenced his life, and see an illustrative picture of how the true nature of the Kingdom of Heaven should be lived out today. These are principles which many Christians in the West desperately need to eternalize today. So I’ve listed five quick observations below to begin with. Anything you would add?
1. Malcolm believed, truly believed and read the Koran as being the word of “Allah.” To him the Koran was not just an intellectual book to ponder, but rather the direct word that came from God and thus should be believed and practiced as such. For Christians, we have hundreds of proofs for the authenticity of the Bible. Our problem in the West is not evidence, but conviction. When people criticize the Bible, it is not from having checked the evidence and found it wanting, but rather a fear of having to come under the authority of the Bible. We can have certainty in the Bible, but often in West we take it for granted. Today there are people in places like China who risk their very lives for a copy of the Bible or even a portion of it. The Bible is real. So the challenge for Kingdom Citizens today is what I’ve said in many sermons, “we must read and heed the word of God.”
2. Malcolm was lost and found his identity in the Nation of Islam. The significance to the “X” following his name goes back to the fact that many slaves who were brought to America were forced to take on their masters’ last name. Thus their true tribal last name and ultimately their identity were lost. The connection with the X was simply that Malcolm was rejecting his American last name. In the “X” he was creating a new identity. For followers of Christ, we can remember that Jesus came that we might have “life to the fullest.” One of the hopes of authentic Christianity is that our true identity is found in Christ which is greater than whatever name appears on our birth certificate. We can have confidence in knowing that we are children of God.
3. The Nation of Islam brought Malcolm into a larger picture and brotherhood. In Islam, Malcolm was no longer an island unto his own scratching for his own needs. He was now part of something bigger. For the Christ follower, we can know that we are indeed part of something greater than even what Malcolm could have ever imagined. The Kingdom of God stretches across time from the resurrection of Christ to today. The Kingdom of Heaven exists all across the globe defying national boundary lines. That’s why I can travel anywhere on the face of the earth and be in unity with people of different races, cultures, and tongues. While authentic Christians are lovers of all mankind, our true brotherhood is found in Christ first. As an American citizen, I pay my taxes and obey the laws of the land, but my highest allegiance is to Christ and His eternal Kingdom.
4. As noted, it was in prison that Malcolm came to Islam. The reason why he was sent up the river in the first place was due to his crime and loose living. But when he witnessed the higher moral character of Muslims, something inside him was drawn to the power of order and discipline that he had been unable to secure in his former life. The Bible tells us that we are to be “Holy, because He is Holy.” The point there is not working for salvation. The point is not another moral code. Rather we are saved by God’s grace and we are free in Christ from the curse of the written law. But in the Kingdom of God, we should be driven by the Law of Christ within our hearts. When we truly love Christ, we live for Him. It is so easy to be loose in America today. The sad reality is that sometimes Christians live in such a way that society notices no difference between them and those who don’t know Jesus. As Kingdom Citizens however, we are called to live a higher standard.
5. Malcolm lived his life with purpose. Unlike some leaders in the Nation of Islam, Malcolm apparently didn’t make a ton of money off folks. He was not driven by the buck, but by an inner purpose. I thought this one was huge. We were all created with and for a purpose. It was not God’s desire that we merely exist, but live for a reason. God created all of us for something greater than just passing our days for an elusive retirement. There is reason and purpose for our being. A new slogan that I’m developing states “Every Person to their Post.” In other words, in Christ we all have a position in the Kingdom of Heaven to be worked out. For that reason, we can no longer sit on the sidelines watching the experts “do church.” We all have a job and the Kingdom is waiting on us.
In conclusion, Malcolm Little was a lost young man in search of meaning. At a point of desperation and openness, someone from the Nation of Islam picked him up and he found purpose in Allah and a new identity in Malcolm X. Unfortunately this great man was led astray by a lie and his ultimate potential was never realized. After I watched the film last week I wondered how things might have been different if a Christian man had reached out to Malcolm in his hour of need instead of a Muslim. I wondered how America and the world might have been different if Malcolm X had experienced the true power of the Resurrected Jesus Christ. How different things might have been. But what about our future? I wonder how life today and tomorrow might be different when true Christ followers live for Jesus and His Kingdom with the same devotion that Malcolm did for what he thought to be true. I wonder how many other Malcolms are out there who might be transformed when we all reach out with the love of Christ as he called us to.