|The MLK Memorial in Washington, DC,|
viewed from near the Jefferson Memorial
I had my flag out for Martin Luther King’s Birthday today. I keep thinking we’d do better to have school and other ways to educate his message on this day than just having a long weekend. So, to that end, here are some thoughts from and about a man who stood up when it took bravery and strength to do that.
“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”—Martin Luther King, Jr. (quoting 19th Century abolitionist Theodore Parker)
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.—Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream”
In 2013 I wrote this in honor of Martin Luther King’s birthday:
MLK, like Gandhi, valued non-violence as a strategy toward change. He stood up for what he believed and was willing to spend time in jail to show his seriousness. That willingness to stand up for principle no matter the unpleasant consequences is something to admire.
MLK was a conservative in many ways that I am. Our Constitution says it guarantees the rights God has given to all human beings. It was not the Constitution that was wrong, but the people in the country who hadn’t opened their eyes to the validity of human rights for all races. So the Constitution was worth conserving. MLK was a Republican, because that party was (and has been, since Lincoln or before) the party ideologically aligned with applying the Constitution to all citizens. Conservatives, half a century ago as well as today, look at MLK’s words, and find resonating truth.
Last year I shared Martin Luther King’s Ten Commandments for those joining him in the nonviolent movement, which bear repeating:
1. MEDITATE daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
2. REMEMBER always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham 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.
It was an advantage that this man was willing to stand, and also had the talent of speaking words that persuaded good people to stand with him. Here are a few more beautiful words from MLK:
There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light
can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate:
only love can do that.
Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.