This past Monday, Heritage Academy, along with many other public and private schools across America, took the day off to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist. During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, King became the most visible leader until he was assassinated in 1968. King is remembered as a moving public speaker and an agent for love and not hate. He is quoted as saying "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
On April 3, 1968, the evening before his assassination, King delivered his "I've Been to the Mountaintop," Address at Bishop Charles Mason Temple (See the full speech here). His speech was directed to the city of Memphis (and the nation) concerning the discrimination and mistreatment of sanitation workers. One of the hallmarks of his speech and his leadership in the civil rights movement was his insistence on non-violence. Below is an except from his speech that evening in Memphis.
"We don't have to argue with anybody. We don't have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don't need any bricks and bottles; we don't need any Molotov cocktails. (Yes) We just need to go around to these stores (Yes sir), and to these massive industries in our country (Amen), and say, "God sent us by here (All right) to say to you that you're not treating His children right. (That's right) And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment where God's children are concerned. Now if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you."
As Martin Luther King Jr. concluded his speech, he turned to the parable of the Good Samaritan which Jesus told in Luke 10:25-37. Using his imagination, he asked the audience why the Priest or the Levite didn't stop to help the wounded man on the roadside? Could it be that they were busy with important meetings? Is it possible that they didn't stop because they were afraid that they might be robbed as well? In any case, King holds up the good Samaritan as an example because he was willing to ask the question, "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?" rather than the question, "If I do stop to help the wounded man, what will happen to me?"
King's speech and lifelong legacy remind us that loving mercy and justice is a good first step. The next step is most important--the step of doing mercy and justice! In the words of Micah 6:8, "He has shown you, O Man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
At Heritage, our theme for the year is spiritual grit based on Galatians 6:9. The parable of the good Samaritan and Martin Luther King Jr.'s life reminds us that it requires spiritual grit to (1) do the right thing, (2) show mercy to others, and (3) work towards justice for our neighbors.