Look to the Future!

‘The time is always right to do what is right’ –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and 26 years of ministry I want to share a little from Dr. King’s ‘A Look to the Future” speech delivered on September 2, 1957 in Monteagle, Tennessee at Highlander Folk School’s Twenty-fifth Anniversary Meeting. I find this appropriate because at this time when we are facing a rise in white supremacy and conspiracy theories abound.

In order to look to the future, it is often necessary to get a clear picture of the past. In order to know where we are going, it is often necessary to see from whence we have come.

Dr, Martin Luther King Jr., ‘A Look to the Future” speech delivered on September 2, 1957 in Monteagle, Tennessee at Highlander Folk School’s Twenty-fifth Anniversary Meeting

Dr. King noted three distinct periods in the history of race relations in this nation in his speech:

  • The first period in the area of race relations extended from 1619 to 1863. This was the period of slavery.
  • The second period in the development of race relations in America extended, broadly speaking, from 1863 to 1954. 
  • The third period in the development of race relations in America had its beginning on May seventeenth, 1954. 

Where are we today?

The past 66 years have witnessed several significant accomplishments in history:

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964, July 1964
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965, August 1965
  • Fair Housing Act, April 1968
  • MLK Assassinated, April 4, 1968
  • Shirley Chisholm Runs for President, 1972
  • The Bakke Decision and Affirmative Action, 1978
  • Barack Obama Becomes 44th U.S. President, 2008
  • The Black Lives Matter Movement 
  • George Floyd Protests May 25, 2020

These are not all of the significant things that have occurred over the past 66 years so we must never give up the fight as a nation and the church to see race relations and injustice defeated. As Dr. King said:

We must gain consolation in the fact that there are constructive forces that will defeat in time all of the barriers of opposition. It is my great hope that as the Negro plunges deeper into the quest for freedom, he will plunge deeper into the philosophy of nonviolence. As a race we must struggle passionately and unrelentingly to the goal of justice, but we must be sure that our hands are clean in the struggle. We must never struggle with falsehood, hate, or malice; we must never become bitter. We must never succumb to the temptation of using violence in the struggle, for if this happens unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.

The future is filled with vast and marvelous possibilities. Let us not despair. Let us realize that as we struggle for righteousness, justice and racial equality it also means mean suffering and sacrifice as Christ did. Truth will always prevail as we look to the One who holds the future in the palm of his hands. “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding? Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.” (Isaiah 40:12-15 NIV)

Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne.
Yet that scaffold sways the future, 
And behind the dim unknown 
Stands God, within the shadow, 
Keeping watch above His own.

James Russell Lowell

We never have to be “adjusted” to the current state of things. Nor be conformed to this world system. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)

“Violence begets violence; hate begets hate; and toughness begets a greater toughness. It is all a descending spiral, and the end is destruction — for everybody. Along the way of life, someone must have enough sense and morality to cut off the chain of hate.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

The Bible tells us that revenge belongs to God. “Vengeance is mine, says the LORD. I will repay.” When God repays, He is not only fair, He is also thorough. So when somebody mistreats us, we may, or may not, choose to seek justice in courts, but we must surely leave vengeance to God.

The God of the universe is a just God who gives mankind an opportunity to repent before justice is exercised from His throne of righteousness and justice. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before You.” (Psalm 89:14 NIV)

Notes:

  1. https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/look-future-address-delivered-highlander-folk-schools-twenty-fifth-anniversary, accessed January 17, 2021

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