A Tribute To Martin Luther King Jr.

martinlutherkingjr

One of the first things I came across online this morning was this comment, “So I ask you a question: Which holiday honors a philanderer, a drunk, a liar, plagiarist, and a cheater? Answer: Martin Luther King Jr. Day. …”

My first thought was, “Oh my God …” I still find it hard to believe that Christians can be so quick to diss other Christians … even dead ones! Let’s face it! People are going to frequently fail and let us down because all mankind is under the influence of a fallen and sinful nature (Rom. 3:23). Although Christians are forgiven and have God’s presence in their lives, they still make mistakes and will sometimes fail. The Apostle Paul described his own conflict with the old nature: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find” (Romans 7:18). The fact is from where I see it, irregardless of his “sins” and perhaps some specifics of his faith, few men embodied the Christ like quality of selfless sacrifice and service, at least in the 20th century, as much as Dr. King. He remains an example for us all!

Three years ago, Barack Obama was a Senator, spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Martin Luther King National Memorial in 2006. On that morning a couple of years ago he told the crowd:

“Unlike the others commemorated in this place, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a president of the United States – at no time in his life did he hold public office. He was not a hero of foreign wars. He never had much money, and while he lived he was reviled at least as much as he was celebrated.

By his own accounts, he was a man frequently racked with doubt, a man not without flaws, a man who, like Moses before him, more than once questioned why he had been chosen for so arduous a task – the task of leading a people to freedom, the task of healing the festering wounds of a nation’s original sin.

And yet lead a nation he did. Through words he gave voice to the voiceless. Through deeds he gave courage to the faint of heart. By dint of vision, and determination, and most of all faith in the redeeming power of love, he endured the humiliation of arrest, the loneliness of a prison cell, the constant threats to his life, until he finally inspired a nation to transform itself, and begin to live up to the meaning of its creed…

In the Book of Micah, Chapter 6, verse 8, the prophet says that God has already told us what is good. ”What doth the Lord require of thee, the verse tells us, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?“

The man we honor today did what God required. In the end, that is what I will tell my daughters…I will tell them that this man gave his life serving others. I will tell them that this man tried to love somebody. I will tell them that because he did these things, they live today with the freedom God intended, their citizenship unquestioned, their dreams unbounded.”

Amen! It is not like I agree with all that President Obama says, but on this one he is right on! He alluded to Moses in that speech, and in Martin Luther King’s last speech over 40 years ago in Memphis, Tennessee, King also alluded to the journey of Moses and the Hebrew slaves who escaped from bondage in Egypt, only to wander for 40 years in the desert. 

To recap the Exodus account, after four decades, God called to Moses and told him to stand on the mountaintop, to look over the land God would on the Israelites. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” [Deuteronomy 34:4]

King concluded his final speech with:  

“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.”  

April 3, 1968

I find it sad that unlike other holidays, less than 40 percent of businesses shut down on the third Monday in January. MLK Day is still treated as one of the best times to buy a mattress, or go to a sale! Do we as a people really need a legally politically mandated moment of pause in order to raise something to the level of divine imperative? Are there not values that are worth our attention because they are values that are valued?

It’s hard to separate the life and legacy of Martin without examining his ties to the church. It’s not a religious holiday, but it’s difficult to celebrate all he did without allowing his spirituality to shine through in some ways. I think that Martin Luther King Jr. Day should not be spent in reflection. I’m not sure Martin would rather not have that.  Martin Luther King was not about taking the day off and reflecting. His life was about making changes. I don’t like to think of it as a day off. I like to think of it as a day on!

Have a blessed day!

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