Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King Day and the Biblical Call for Justice

I think sometimes it's easy to think of Martin Luther King Day as just another federal holiday.  Those in the government get the day off and the kids are off from school, but for many of us, this is another workday.  I'd like to take a moment, though, to think about Dr. King's place in the Biblical and Christian tradition and how that is important for us today.

One of the things I remember about Martin Luther King personally is that watching old clips of his speeches was one of the first memories I have of seeing truly great preaching.  I say preaching because many of his speeches and writings relate to the Biblical call for justice.  This is a link to his "I Have a Dream" speech along with commentary on some of the verses that he highlights.  I'd certainly encourage you to watch the entire thing, but what really sticks out in my memory is the part around the 8:20 mark in the video in which he quotes the Old Testament prophet Amos: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

What is the call to justice?  I think we think of King as most clearly attached to the call for racial equality, but he also believed in lifting up people of all skin colors who were oppressed.  This ties well into the message of Amos at a time in Israel when the rich were greatly oppressing the poor.  

Throughout the Bible, God calls us to stand up for justice, to love the "least of these brothers and sisters of mine (Matthew 25:40)."  We as a church are called to do that, too.  Our belief in Jesus Christ, "in whom there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female (Galatians 3:28)," calls us to take a stand when we see injustice or inequality in society.  It's not always easy.  I've talked to many people here who have told me about some of the turmoil of the time of the Civil Rights Movement.  Being born in the Detroit area, I'm sensitive to the effect of racial turmoil in the 1967 rioting there (link here), which tore apart the city and has had a lasting impact on it to this day.  I know well that the scars experienced on both sides of our long national struggle with justice and equality take time to heal, but I also know that Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price, so that we may love one another as he first loved us (John 13:34).  

So today, rather than focusing only on Martin Luther King, let's focus on our faith.  What is God calling us to do at this time?  How can we bring about justice and equality in our day?  

May the peace of Christ be with you always,
Vicar James

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