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Martin Luther King day is a national holiday, but is it a holiday for the nation? Does it affect every single one of us? Or is it just for African Americans? Should I, a Colombian born, naturalized American citizen of Cuban parents, care about MLK Day? I mean, after all, the civil rights movement did not affect or involve my family or me.
Yet, I am planning on honoring the day in several ways. Not because of my ethnic heritage or even my naturalization, but because of my spiritual allegiance to the kingdom of God. As a follower of Jesus I am compelled and challenged to involve myself in the commemoration of this life.
MLK fought for those who society had marginalized and oppressed. Jesus too cares for the “least of these”. He cares for those others would prefer to ignore. His kingdom is one of justice and righteousness as Dr. King so often reminded us. “In words of the prophet Micah, he hoped that one day all persons elected to public office will ‘do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with [their] God.’ His hope for an end to war was rooted in Isaiah’s vision that people will ‘beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.’ Biblical promises of ‘peace on earth and goodwill toward all’ were Dr. King’s antidote to despair.” 1
As a believer in Jesus I am bound to love what he loves and hate what he hates. Martin Luther King Day is a day of celebration for us all because he, along with many others, helped the nation we call home to move from a place of segregating and discriminating against half its citizens and towards a place of equality. This is something we can all rejoice in. We were all set free. Some were set free from oppression and others were set free from oppressing. It is difficult to know which is the greater freedom.
Yet as we remember the life of Dr. King we must also remember that his vision, his dream has not yet become a full reality. We still live in a world battled with racism and injustice. There are still battles to be fought, perhaps not as obvious as those of his day, yet still as prevalent. As believers in the one who came to set men free, we must work within our spheres of influence to affirm justice, righteousness, and truth. We must fight, not just the battles that affect us personally, but also those that stand against the name, the ways, and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the words of Dr. King, we must be extremist.
“Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”2
1. “Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. King’s Vision of Justice: Rooted in the Bible” David J. Lull
2. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Dr. Martin Luther King