AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo
As you know, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day will be celebrated this Monday, January 18, 2009. This is a national holiday, one of four the nation has dedicated to celebrating the life of a person, but the life and legacy of Dr. King are cherished by people all across the world because the causes he championed, the nonviolent, but forceful manner in which he did so, and the love and compassion he showed to every human being brought people of every race and creed together in the name of peace and equality. What made Dr. King different than most others before him, what endeared him to so many, what forced leaders of other races, especially those races hostile to blacks, to respect him was that, one, the strength of his convictions empowered him to serve, even in times when people, conditions, and institutions made it virtually impossible to do so, and, two, he was a man of action, committed to coming out from behind the pulpit and doing something about the injustices going on in the world around him, even when it was not only inconvenient but also physically and mentally dangerous for him to do so. When most preachers were content with going along to get along, Dr. King fathered a movement with the unbreakable mentality that he would rather lose his life striving for the life he wanted and vividly imagined than preserve it and live in a world where neither he nor his people had any prospects for advancement beyond the segregated status quo.
The greatness of Dr. King has rarely been questioned in history, not because of how powerfully he fought for the needs of black people, but because of the passion with which he adopted the causes of worldwide issues. The U.S. government was okay with Dr. King as long as he was kept at bay and as long as civil rights, in his mind, was limited to “black rights,” but when his definition of civil began to have more political, more widespread implications, the powers that be started to take issue with him. When Dr. King’s ministry expanded from organizing restaurant sit-ins to publicly protesting against the Vietnam War and the country’s participation in it, the establishment began to have a problem, but he didn’t care.
Dr. King’s birthday was on Friday, and if he were still alive today, he’d be 81 years old, an age all would consider advanced, but fiery 81; he’d still be God’s man of peace in Atlanta, Vancouver, Helsinki, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro, and, most importantly, for this season, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. By now, surely everyone is well aware of the current state of disaster in which Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, finds itself, due to the earthquake occurring this past Tuesday, January 12, and you’re probably also aware of number of ways you can donate funds to the relief efforts that will be taking place there for months, possibly years, to come. 81-year-old Dr. King would have given money, but he would have also gotten on his phone and on the internet to see how else he could get involved. Of course, I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. King, but I like to think that after having read and written so much about him over my lifetime, I know him well enough to be certain that, if he were alive and physically able, he’d be packing his bags, poised to take the first possible relief flight to the nation to help out even more.
Many are in the position to donate their time and talent, as well as their treasure, in order to help their brothers and sisters in Haiti; God bless them. As for those of us who are unable to do that at this point in our lives, we can and will give generously, but, in the spirit of service, and in remembrance of the ultimate man of action, we must also shift our inwardly focused paradigm outward, exploring ways we can better serve our own community. Most of us may only be able to tangibly assist Haiti with our finances, but we can still take this time to refocus ourselves on our mandate of serving God’s people. It is during times like these that God seeks to pull out of us an anointing to be a more service-based, action-oriented people. Woe unto us if we internalize all of our singing, praising, studying, and preaching, but are unable to translate that into an impact on someone else’s life. It’s time. In the name of Jesus, in memory of Dr. King, and for the sake of the Haitians, let’s do something!
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