Why King Lives On

Jesus, when eulogizing his First cousin John, asked the attending crowd what turned out to be a series of rhetorical questions. He followed these questions up with the answer we find in Matthew 11:9 (NIV). He says “What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.” Although I cannot theologically confer the words of Christ to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I like to imagine God pleased with His path. Dr king prepared a path for righteousness and justice as did John the Baptist in preparing the world for its savior.

I am awestruck every time I watch what most would consider to be the pinnacle of Dr. King’s influence: the march on Washington. Standing on the steps of the hallowed Lincoln Memorial Dr. King delivered his famous “I have a Dream” speech. I am riveted when I listen to him speak boldly and candidly on behalf of the sanitation workers in Memphis Tennessee. I am deeply moved when I read the infamous “Letter from the Birmingham Jail.” Indeed from the pulpit to the page, Dr. King sits on the mountaintop with some of the greatest literary activists of Earth’s history.

However, I would argue that if his life was not congruent with his tongue it would not be long before his oratorical ability and his literary prowess would be a mere conglomeration of sounding brass and clanging cymbals. Yes, we are easily inspired by ones’ ability to arrange words in a manner that stirs in our souls the desire to rally the proverbial troops to get the job done. Whether it is the melodic speech of the 44th President of the United States, or the rhythmic voice of ones favorite pop/rap artist, it doesn’t take much to get us going. However, we are quick to jump ship when we find that one’s actions are not congruent with ones words.

From corrupt politicians to pocket snatching preachers we have become calloused and indifferent to leaders who attempt to swoon us with their words only to slap us with their actions. Such was not the case when we examine the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. In an era when equality dripped as slow as molasses and injustice ran free as a flowing river there was one man whose actions functioned as the mitochondria of his words.

Dr. King was a father, a husband, a friend, a theologian, an icon, but most of all an indiscriminate friend to the least of society. Where did he get his uncanny drive to continue amidst hostility and assault? On what rock was his foundation established? I could extrapolate bits and pieces from all of his known manuscripts. I could list a number of individuals as well as historical documents that influenced his thinking. However, there is one document written first in 1892 and most recently ratified in 1957 that truly moved the drum major, the pledge of Allegiance. It is the final line of the pledge that I believe encapsulates the mission and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It reads “One nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty, and justice for all”

One Nation

​Dr. King was a proud American who sought social and civil reform for his beloved nation. His message was one of unity and cohesiveness for mankind. He understood that while it was not possible for everyone to reach the pinnacle of success it was important to him that they at least have the same opportunity afforded them. As a historian, Dr. King understood that the unity of a nation was a must have variable that greatly determined its rise or fall.

Under God/Indivisible

​As a theologian, Dr. King, though a prolific agent for social change, understood that we should reckon with the truth that any nation not guided by a strict moral code cannot stand long. King did not use his influence to promote his denominational preference but understood as well as the forefathers of this nation that the past, present, and future of this great nation lies in its submission to the governing principals as prescribed by the early puritan settlers. The very character of God was communicated to Moses some 4000 years ago. It is the principals of the ancient Decalogue known as the Ten Commandments woven into the fabric of this nation that still provide foundation in America.

Still stitched in the very currency we exchange is the now controversial phrase “In God we trust”. Without these principals exalted there becomes an abundance of every crooked and perverse thing. I submit to you today as did Dr. King did over 50 years ago, that a code of success that is never translated from paper to practice is as null and void as a blank check written with insufficient funds to match. In essence, while this nation may one day desire to disassociate itself with its God, it was never Gods intention to disassociate Himself from her. Dr. King’s life of sacrifice and legacy of Christ centered justice will forever remind us of that great truth.

Liberty

​The fuel of the oppressed to make it yet another day lies in the hope of one day being free. Liberty was the theme that consistently drove Dr. King to continue when dogs were loosed in the streets during protest, and Molotov cocktails were thrown through his living room windows. Each demonstration of oppression fed his peaceful rebellion. I submit to you today that if we believe for one moment that Dr. King’s dream of liberty was exclusive for the people of African descent then we need to re-evaluate our understanding of his mission. Dr. King desired to have keys made to unlock every chain of oppression that had fettered any individual within the human race! Understanding that freedom is not free he sacrificed his time, talents, family, and eventually his own life to see that his proclamation of freedom become a reality.

Justice for All

​In his letter written while in the Birmingham jail Dr. King makes a statement that gives the reader clear picture into his political and social philosophy at the time. Now, one of his most quoted phrases, Dr. King wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. King was unafraid to expose the injustice that affected him and countless others. A leader is often born out of a need. There was a definite need for reform in his era. I believe Dr. King was a successful leader because he was well acquainted with the griefs of those who followed him. He was unwilling to relent in his pursuit of fair treatment for all people.

While the majority of America pledged its allegiance to the ideals of the nation, Dr King and so many others pledged their allegiance to seeing those ideals become a reality. He was ever mindful of the mountains he had to climb, and received strength and motivation when he looked back at the valleys from whence he came.  Such should be our resolve. Such should be our motivation. The legacy of his writings, his service, and even his sacrifice, live on in the lives of every one of us.




Social Justice: The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Growing up in the 90’s as a Seventh-day Adventist, there were few things more impressionable than evangelistic meetings or what many would term “Revelation Seminars.” These meetings would last for weeks with the goal to bring individuals to Christ at their culmination. As an 8-12 year old child those seminars were quite daunting and foreboding. The preacher’s emphasis was heavily placed on Biblical prophesies, “signs of the times,” and ultimately the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

While it was a very captivating experience, I often left more confused about Jesus, and my salvation. I would think to myself, “If I have heard this stuff for years and am still confused, I cannot imagine how a visitor might feel!” Revelation Seminars seemed to be anything but a revelation – at least not a revelation of Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I understand their intent and have witnessed God work on the hearts of those who sat through them. But looking back sometimes I wonder what exactly was being revealed.

A World in Need of a Revelation

We live in a time when we have unlimited and unfiltered access to information, but the least sense of direction. We can communicate with one another across the globe, and yet we feel the loneliest. There is a desire for community, belonging, and a hope that the God everyone talks about is actually real and relevant to our lives. In other words, the world (and the church for that matter) is looking for a revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Bible is replete with passages that reveal a God whose ear is tuned to and brokenhearted. Better yet, we serve a God whose heart breaks over the injustices of this world. However, the mantle has been laid on the Christian believer to make sure that the world experiences the love and power of a God that sees their plight. It is clear that the follower of Christ is primarily called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-19 NIV), but how can we disciple a world that has yet to have a revelation of Jesus?

Christ Revealed to the World

The Apostle Paul provides profound insight as to how Christ is revealed to the world. In the Book of Romans Chapter 1:20 he says “For His (Jesus Christ) invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, and understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead!” In other words, the long-standing question of “is there a God?” “Who is God?” and “does God care about what takes place on earth?” can all be answered by the actions of those who claim to serve this God according to the scripture above. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we have the power to reveal the “invisible attributes, the eternal power and divine nature of God” just by how we relate to one another and the world!

Paul places more emphasis on our role in revealing God to the world when he pens Romans 8:19 (NIV) “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” If Paul were writing in laymen terms today he would be saying “ Would the real Christ followers please stand up?” If God is revealed through His creation, then there is little wonder why at this moment in Earth’s history the entire creation from plant to person is under attack. The enemy aims to suppress the revelation of God to the world! On the contrary, mankind has been ordained to facilitate the revelation of God. I submit to you that it is through acts of benevolence and a keen sense of justice that God is revealed to the world.

A Christian Code of Ethics

As a practitioner in the Social Work profession, my practice is bound by a code of ethics. As listed in the National Association of Social Workers Book of Ethics, I am bound to Service, Social Justice, Dignity and worth of the person, Importance of human relationships, Integrity, and Competence. If a secular profession can hold its practitioners to such noble standards of Righteousness and Justice, should those who stand under the banner of Christ live by anything less? Christ has in fact given us a “code of Ethics” that calls for its practitioners to not just agree with the code but to also live by the code! In fact, the primary criterion for entrance into Heaven is not based on our doctrinal subscription but on how we served those who could not help themselves (Matthew 25:35-40).

When we as the body of Christ are ready to give, that is when the Kingdom of God will receive. When we are ready to listen to the plight of the downtrodden, those same individuals will in turn become receptive to the message of a crucified and risen savior. When we are ready to extend a hand in our community, our community will make their presence felt in our midst. I believe we are called to move away from some of our traditional practices that often only yield conversion to a denomination. Now, God is calling us to move toward the practices of the early church: genuine benevolence and a pursuit of justice that yields conversions to Christ.

He’s Revealed in Me

Recently, I had an encounter with a young man who was homeless. I felt led to give and as I did, he looked me in the eyes and said, “I feel so alone, confused, and misunderstood.” I believe his are the sentiments of the world at large. We can no longer afford to be benefactors of a revelation of God in our own lives, and not share it with those who are seeking for it as well. The question then becomes; “how do I do my part in revealing God to the world?” Author and messenger of God, Ellen White penned a familiar statement that I believe provides a guideline for those seeking one.

In her book, Ministry of Healing p.143 she states “The savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs and won their confidence. Then he bade them, ‘follow me.’” That passage and formula is riddled with genuine, tangible ways in which Christ revealed himself to the world. When we become more intentional about being present in the triumphs and trials of those around us, we wont need them to sit through a Revelation seminar in hopes that they see Jesus. They will have already seen him revealed through our love for them and for one another.