Today is a day to reflect on the incredible sacrifice of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. His life expressed the true definition of a leader and his selfless dedication to re-awaken the firm and absolute truth that all men are created equal was a monumental transformation to the American landscape. His unforgettable words that men should be judged on the content of their character and not by the color of their skin, and that love should be at the center of our lives and daily conversation will forever be true. At the center of his message, one thing that is often overlooked, is a cry of discontentment with the present day church; big in number yet small in power and denying its role to be true sons and daughters of Christ and the light of the world.
“There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.” -Rev. Martin Luther King, letter from the Birmingham Jail.
It’s hard to find more eloquent words than the ones spoken in Rev. King’s letter from the Birmingham Jail. The more I listened to television today and read my constant tweet updates, the fewer I saw reference to his biblical foundation.
Why has the title “Dr. King” buried the title “Reverend King?” I can assume this is largely attributed to the consequences of secularism in an attempt to eliminate any reference to religion. Was it his “PhD” or his “religion” that drove him to devote and ultimately give his life for racial equality? Although there have been many attempts to “secularize” Martin Luther King by the left, make no mistake he was first and foremost a religious man and everything he did emanated from his unapologetic faith as a believer in Christ. Although holding a PhD, it was not his doctorate that led him to devote his life for the liberation of black America, but his foundation in Christ that led the way.
“Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”
Peaceful, non-violent ideas came only from Martin Luther King’s Judeo-Christian foundation. This is the exact opposite of the violent overthrow or revolution that is so prevalent in the teachings of Saul Alinsky, Lenin, and Marx; the same revolutionary rhetoric that is widely touted by the left.
“Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.”
Martin Luther King understood the power that the individual has to find the moral light and begin a new, yet for the large powerful group, this is virtually impossible. America is not great because of the size of her government, but because of the vision and values of her people. I am convinced that those who believe in big government have little faith in self governance. Their philosophy says that government should do what a man can’t – or won’t – do for himself.
Martin Luther stood up for the very best in the American Dream, which is centered in the most sacred values of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
How did Martin Luther King want to be remembered – as a saint, a civil rights activist, a political activist, or as a community organizer? I think his words give us a glimpse of exactly how he wanted to be remembered:
“I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother…in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”