Today, I’m grateful for Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today, I can walk into a restaurant, sit down with my family, order food, and enjoy eating it.
Today, I can drink from the same water fountain as everyone else.
Today, I can ride the bus and not be forced to sit in the back.
Today, I can vote.
Today, my children attend integrated schools.
Today, America is better in many ways than when Dr. King lived.
Today, I stand on the shoulders of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and so many others in the civil rights movement.
In many ways, I also stand in the blood of Dr. King and others in the movement. So many people of different ethnicities were beaten and murdered so that the freedoms that belong to all Americans could be realized for black Americans in the South.
Today, I’m grateful.
So often we forget that Dr. King was a Baptist preacher. I just wonder why more Southern pastors and Christians didn’t stand up against injustice, discrimination, and hate as black Americans were denied the basic rights the Constitution afforded them?
Let the words of this Baptist preacher pierce your heart:
- "The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial" (from “Pilgrimage to Non-Violence,” 1960).
- “Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies" (from “Loving Your Enemies” sermon, 1957).
Dr. King led a movement that required disciples to embody the values it advocated. In Alabama in 1963, he asked people who joined the movement to make a commitment and even sign a card promising to keep these commandments. This is what it said:
I hereby pledge myself—my person and body—to the nonviolent movement. Therefore I will keep the following ten commandments:
1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
2. Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation—not victory.
3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.
I sign this pledge, having seriously considered what I do and with the determination and will to persevere.
It is simply astonishing that so many people embodied these values that America was transformed. Love transforms.
The Movie Selma
To celebrate and appreciate the work of Dr. King, take your family or grab some friends and go see the movie Selma.
Today, I am grateful, and I hope you are, too.
Marinate on that.