By Bishop R. Lawson Bryan
We must not expect others to do that which we are uniquely equipped to do. What do I mean by that? The longer I live, the more I realize that the Christian faith addresses the hopes and fears of humanity in a very practical way. And the more passionately we embrace the life of Jesus the more He will equip us to live in ways that enact His will on earth. Though we usually do not recognize it, Christians have a whole set of “spiritual muscles” that we have developed over years of worship, Bible study, fellowship, giving, and service.
As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I ask you to please join me in remembering this: Dr. King’s life shows us how uniquely equipped we are to provide what the world needs. He led the civil rights movement not with physical weapons, not with the rhetoric of hate, not with political manipulation, but with spiritual power.
Standing in Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church’s pulpit and looking out over the sanctuary is a spiritual experience. It reminds us that Dr. King was - above all - a preacher of the Gospel. His words were the result of his own study of the Word. That is why his words could be prophetically honest about how things were and yet profoundly hopeful about how Christ could create a new future. He insisted on non-violent behavior as a witness to the Prince of Peace. He was committed not only to the message of Jesus but also to the non-violent method of Jesus.
The parsonage Dr. King lived in is located a short distance from the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery. The living room, dining room, and bedrooms are furnished just as they were when the King family lived there. But the room I most wanted to see was the kitchen. The kitchen is where he went at midnight on Jan. 27, 1956, as his wife and 10-week-old daughter slept in the master bedroom. He had already received death threats by mail and phone. But that night, the caller said, “…if you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow up your house and blow your brains out.” Shaken by that call, Dr. King went to the kitchen, buried his face in his hands, and prayed aloud: “Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right … But … I must confess … I’m losing my courage.” Dr. King later explained what happened next: “I could hear an inner voice saying to me, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth.’”
Even with all the brutality he experienced, Dr. King never wavered from the message of Jesus and the method of Jesus. He told those who joined the movement, “As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
We share that same Christian faith that guided Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You and I are more ready than we realize to truthfully name the dividing walls of hostility in life, acknowledge that Jesus dismantles those walls and becomes our Peace, and joyfully participate in the new humanity that God is creating through Jesus.