MLK Day 2021
Over 50 years ago today, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made an indelible mark on the history of the United States as a champion for social justice and civil rights. He was first and foremost a man led by his faith and was a proud 3rd-generation preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. More than ever, it is important to remember his legacy and the dream of unity and justice that he helped steward to the forefront of the American consciousness. We honor his actions by taking a mindful moment to think about the ways that we can echo and uplift his repeated calls to action to consider our interconnectedness to those around us. We take this day to consider an intentional approach to the moral imperative to stand up against every type of injustice that afflicts our society. We take today to not only honor this man’s life, but to give light to the many movements and revolutionary works that he ignited with his passion for justice and equity.
The foundations of Dr. King’s approach to social justice were based on a biblical framework that emphasizes loving those who are different than you in the spirit of being one community.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NKJV)
In the eyes of God, there is no difference between His creations for they are all made in His image and given the same promise of salvation and freedom. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” written on April 16th, 1963, Dr. King positions the roots of his activism as inspired by the traditions of the early Christian church:
“But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Meditating on the lessons that we can learn from Dr. King’s life, we are tied into a singular garment of destiny that we must wear every day with grace. Complacency in the face of injustice is a threat to the idea of community and the actions we are compelled by our interconnectedness to take every day. It is a conscious choice to speak truth to power and dismantle any system that does not allow us to treat others as we would want ourselves to be treated. Beyond choosing kindness, boldly taking action to ensure justice and freedom is a step towards God’s vision for us. It is a beautiful dream that seeks to see people of all walks of life marching forward together “to create a new thing”. Dr. King ends his famous “I Have a Dream” speech made on August 28th, 1963 with echoes of that Galatians verse from the Bible referenced above:
“And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King’s words resonate with me so deeply because my own journey is tied to people of all kinds who decided to join their hands with my own to effect change. Freedom, justice, equity, and kindness are some of the most precious gifts and values that we can encourage in a just and moral society. Every day at the Los Angeles Mission, it is part of our work and mission to join hands to continue in this tradition of promoting a culture, practice, and active ministry that upholds these values for our community. I pray that you and yours can take these beautiful lessons from the life and activism of this extraordinary man and dream “a song of freedom”.