A Man of Faith

I hope that you are all excited about the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, and not just for a day off. The extra day is nice, but I get really psyched about what this day stands for.

Not only is this a day to honor a great man, but to honor all those who worked for civil rights. Dr. King stands for the possibility of citizens of our country to fight injustice and prejudice and make lasting change.

Dr. King also stands as a man of faith. The civil rights movement transcended any one religion, including people of all faiths and those with no faith, but it began in the black church. At its heart the movement for equal rights was a movement to make real Jesus’ admonishment to love your neighbor as yourself. And Dr. King’s non-violent methods personified Jesus’ call to love your enemy. The civil rights movement was a reaction to a long history of injustice, but it found inspiration in the gospel and organizing strength in the black church.

As a minister I always emphasize Dr. King’s birthday as a very important Sunday. Traditionally I quote from Dr. King’s sermons and speeches as a celebration of his life and leadership. I do this not only to remember his greatness, but also for the inspiration of where a deep faith may lead. As King said in 1965, “I am many things to many people, but in the quiet recesses of my heart, I am fundamentally a clergyman, a Baptist preacher.” It is important for our children to have such models of Christian activism to see that the words of the Gospel, when lived with integrity, can make a real difference in the world.

We still have a long way to go. Discrimination today is seen in the disparities of educational opportunities, the jails disproportionally full of people of color and the stubborn separation of racial groups in our country. We have taken many steps along the journey toward the Biblical beloved community, but we are a long way from its fruition. I pray we continue to testify that “God is love” in all the ways we lead our lives and shape our society.

May his holiday stand as a tribute to all the courageous people who fought to reverse the terrible scourge of racism, and to inspire us to speak out of our faith for the gospel truth—of love for all God’s children.

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