This past Monday, our nation celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in order to recognize the wonderful civil rights leadership of Reverend Dr. King. The tremendous courage and convictions of Dr. King are brought to the public's attention each year on the third Monday of January, but the intentions of MLK reach far beyond a one-day illumination of his iconic efforts to establish equality, justice, righteousness and peace in the United States. Yes, Dr. King led the most renowned civil rights movement in our nation's history, but his vision, highlighted in his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, encourages an ongoing ministry that reflects the ministry of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
As a minister, Martin Luther King, Jr. served God's calling to share the ministry of Jesus during "extreme" times and conditions in order to enact change for the present and the future. During his time on earth, Jesus was an advocate for the oppressed, the disadvantaged, and the outcasts, while providing a ministry that shouted for equality, thus reflecting the divine message of the Lord, our Creator.
"But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Recently, I had the opportunity to lead a small-group discussion focusing on Martin Luther King, Jr's civil rights activism and ministry. The discussion yielded several interesting perspectives about progress from MLK's lifetime to the current times of the 21st century. One of the observations included the suggestion for more "action" among all people in creating equality and justice in a modern culture that sometimes is satisfied with "posts," "tweets" or "likes" about those subjects on social media.
Since Dr. King's ministry of achieving equality, justice, righteousness and peace by non-violent means reflected the ministry of Jesus Christ, I asked the small group to access the progress of achieving those virtues in our modern times. Some agreed that we have made strides, some perceived the current mood (as revealed through social media) to echo frustration, while others admit that the ministries of Jesus and Dr. King are a work in progress and will always be ongoing in healing the human condition.
As Christians and in our efforts to make "the dream" of Martin Luther King, Jr. come true, we adhere to the virtues of grace, hope, love and peace as are taught to us through the words of Jesus Christ. Our "actions" reflect the actions of Christ who instructed his disciples with the commandment of love:
"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
The dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his ministry is a reflection of the ministry of Jesus Christ, who, in reconciling us with God, encouraged equality, justice, righteousness and peace for all people. As we approach each day, let us do so with a vision to make Dr. King's dream a reality!
McCormick Theological Seminary student
"When we see social relationships controlled everywhere by the principles which Jesus illustrated in life -- trust, love, mercy, and altruism --
then we shall know that the kingdom of God is here."
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.