MLK Day 2023 “Saving the Soul of America”

I am nevertheless greatly saddened … that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling.” Martin Luther King Jr.

No one in American history communicated more eloquently or advanced more effectively the ideals of freedom, justice, and equality than the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King’s commitment and calling cost him his life. It was his cross to bear and in the end it cost him his life, but that didn’t matter because he had been to the mountaintop and seen the promised land. He had counted the cost and was willing to sacrifice all for the freedoms afforded to all humanity in Christ.

He as willingness to take up his cross, bear the burden of racial injustice and segregation of the races in order to fulfil the law of Christ. The Bible in the doesn’t specifically define what precisely is the law of Christ. However, Most Bible teachers understand the law of Christ to be what Christ stated in Mark 12:28–31, ‘One of the scribes came up and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

In Matthew 16:24-25 Common English Bible (CEB), Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives?” (emphasis added).

Galatians 6:2 (CEB) says, “Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ” (emphasis added).

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister and activist. He was one of the most prominent leaders in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. Although he was a civil rights leader, he knew that his calling as a minister defined his commitment to the gospel message.

Dr. King said, “[In] the quiet recesses of my heart, I am fundamentally a clergyman, a Baptist preacher. This is my being and my heritage, for I am also the son of a Baptist preacher, the grandson of a Baptist preacher and the great-grandson of a Baptist preacher.” He clarified his purpose in “The Man Who Was a Fool” at a Chicago church in 1967. He clarifies his sense of vocation in this way: I did not come to Mount Pisgah to give a civil rights address; I have to do a lot of that . . . But before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the gospel. This was my first calling and it still remains my greatest commitment. You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry. I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don’t plan to run for any political office. I don’t plan to do anything but remain a preacher.”

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love

Today we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, Baptist minister one of the most prominent leaders in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. In honor of his legacy and with courage to continue to press onward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, I want to share a few of his deepest insights about life, good and evil, and Christian faith forged in the heat of conflict and struggle from his well known book, Strength to Love. ItThis book continues to encourage me along my prophetic journey towards understanding the pressing need for racial reconciliation in America if we are to truly be “one nation under God with liberty and justice for all”.

A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart“: Dr. King said :”Jesus recognized the need for blending opposites, He knew that his disciples would face a difficult and hostile world, where they would confront the recalcitrance of political officials and the intransigence of the old order. He knew that they would meet cold and arrogant men whose hearts had been hardened by the long winter of traditionalism. So he said to them, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.” And he gave them a formula for action. “Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” It is pretty difficult to imagine a single person having, simultaneously, the characteristics of a serpent and a dove, but this is what Jesus expects. We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.”

Transformed Conformist“: “Do not be conformed” is difficult advice in a generation when crowd pressures have unconsciously conditioned our minds and feet to move to the rhythmic drumbeat of the status quo. Many voices and forces urge us to choose the path of least resistance, and bid us never to fight for an unpopular cause and never to be found in pathetic minority of two or three.”

Transformed Conformist”: The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”

“Love in Action,” he laments: “One of the great tragedies of life is that men seldom bridge the gulf between practice and profession, between doing and saying. A persistent schizophrenia leaves so many of us tragically divided against ourselves. On the one hand, we proudly profess certain sublime and noble principles, but on the other hand, we sadly practise the very antithesis of these principles. How often are our lives characterised by a high blood pressure of creeds and an anaemia of deeds! We talk eloquently about our commitment to the principles of Christianity, and yet our lives are saturated with the practices of paganism. We proclaim our devotion to democracy, but we sadly practise the very opposite of the democratic creed. We talk passionately about peace, and at the same time we assiduously prepare for war. We make our fervent pleas for the high road of justice, and then we tread unflinchingly the low road of injustice. This strange dichotomy, this agonising gulf between the ought and the is, represents the tragic theme of man’s earthly pilgrimage.”

On Being a Good Neighbor“: Who is my neighbor? “I do not know his name,” says Jesus in essence. “He is the anyone toward whom you are neighborly. He is anyone who lies in need at life’s roadside. He is neither Jew nor Gentile; he neither Russian nor American; he is neither Negro nor white. He is ‘a certain man’–any needy man–on one of the many Jericho roads of life”

Loving Your Enemies“: Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world, Jesus is not the impractical idealist; he is the practical realist … He realized that every genuine expression of love grows out of a consistent and total surrender to God.”

A Knock at Midnight“: It is also midnight in the social order… Moral principles have lost there distinctiveness. For modern man, absolute right and absolute wrong are a matter of what the majority is doing. Right and wrong is relative to likes and dislikes and the customs of the particular community.”

Throughout his journey, Dr. King worked tirelessly to expose the unfair, vicious treatment of black people in America. So, it is only befitting that I share some of Dr. King’s revelations and insights that bought about significant change in his generation. In his final speech before his assassination in April 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said this:

“All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’

“Faith in the dawn arises from the faith that God is good and just. When one believe this, he knows that the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate. He can walk through the dark night with the radiant conviction that all things work together for good for this who love God.”

Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. —Martin Luther King, Jr. (emphasis mine).

Dr. King was eloquent and strong in the delivery of his message. So much so that it bought about healing and deliverance to a nation fraught with hatred for people of color. Sadly, racism and racial injustice continues to plague America. In 2021, the FBI said hate crimes against Asian and Black people rose sharply in the U.S.2 A 2022 Pew Research article reveals that many say many say key U.S. institutions should be rebuilt to ensure fair treatment.3

in Dr. King’s profound prophetic finale, “ I’ve been to the mountaintop”, delivered on April 3, 1968 at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee he noted, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy. Now that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.…”confusion all around.

He goes on to say, “And another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them.”

At the end of his speech Dr. King says, “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.”

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot dead standing on a balcony outside his second floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee.

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

We are now living in the 21st century. Our nation is still sick and troubled. Dr. King noted then and we can see it happening today, the masses of people are rising up. Whether they are in Afghanistan, America, Iran or other nations the cry is always the same: “We want to be free.”

Where do we go from here? Chaos or Community?.

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

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Note: All Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.

  1. King Jr, ML. (2010). Strength to Love, Fortress Press.
  2. Mangan, Dan. Hate crimes against Asian and Black people rise sharply in the U.S., FBI says. cnbc.com. 30 Aug 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/30/fbi-says-hate-crimes-against-asian-and-black-people-rise-in-the-us.html. Accessed 15 Jan 2023
  3. Cox, Kiara, Edwards, Khadijah. Black Americans Have a Clear Vision for Reducing Racism but Little Hope It Will Happen. Pewresearch.org. 30 Aug 2022. https://www.pewresearch.org/race-ethnicity/2022/08/30/black-americans-have-a-clear-vision-for-reducing-racism-but-little-hope-it-will-happen. Accessed 15 Jan 2023

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