"Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am,
who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it
for a purpose greater than myself."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
To say that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a hero of mine is an understatement. He was a modern day prophet of God whose words rung like a bell throughout not only this land, but throughout the rest of history. I have read his sermons, his speeches, his journals and his letters and they have never failed to inspire me as to how he lived what he preached with the very blood of his life and faith.
Everything he said, he lived and he loved even understanding the costliness of love. Hate, retaliation and revenge are natural; but love and compassion and nonviolence are spiritual. The Christ he served preached and live this to the cross. Dr. King preached and lived this to a hotel in Memphis. They both understood that love was the higher law. This shines forth in his sermon entitled "Loving Your Enemies":
Now there is a final reason I think 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 the 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.
Unlike Dr. King, how many of us have read Christ's words "Love thy enemies" or "Blessed are the peacemakers" and do not take the most important step and live them out in our daily lives? How many of us are truly transformed to the point of willingly being ready to give our very lives to live them out?
When we honor his legacy, we need to not only remember how far we have come, but also, and, more importantly, how far we have to go?
We are at a point in American history where it appears we are moving backwards. Our government may be, but the people of this country need to not only speak up, but rise up and fight any injustice or oppression for anyone in this country (regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexuality). We need to heed King's words, "We have before us a glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of civilization." And we do. But will we?
A question he once asked reverberates deep within me, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?"
Too often we quote his words but we don't live them out.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day should not only be a day to acknowledge the work and legacy of this great prophet of God, but to continue to work towards ending injustice and driving out darkness with light, hate with love, to work toward bringing about "on earth as it is in heaven."
So when I read Martin Luther King, Jr.'s prayer, I prayed it. And I will pray it daily. And I will work towards living that prayer out. I will not be silent. I will not ignore the suffering of others. I will not overlook the racial inequality that our country still faces. I will not react with bitterness and hatred, but with the same love and righteous anger that infused the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. King.
"The time is always right to do the right thing," he said. And we must. We cannot choose to be silent or comfortable within our homes when we see the rise of darkness and bigotry. If we do not, then, "Not only will we have to repent for the sins of the bad people; but we will have to repent for the appalling silence of the good people."
I do not want to be one of those silent good people because that is not good. Silence to injustice is to side with the oppressor. We must stand with those who understand that there is no power without peace. We must not choose division, but stand for the dignity of all. Power, real power, is rooted in love and peace. Power is not arrogant and boastful, but is found in humility and service. We must also face that, as Dr. King said, "Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle . . ." Are we willing to be those tireless individuals now? Are we willing to step out of our comfortable lives with courage and inner resolve for what we truly believe in?
I hope that this is a day of not only reflection, but action. To understand the fight is not yet won, the battle is not yet over and that the dream is still just a dream.
I pray Dr. King's prayer, I pray that others will pray it, and I pray that we will all truly live it out in a world that desperately cries out for us to.