Don’t Forget That Martin Luther King Jr’s Legacy Was Built on the Bible That Guided Him

Atlanta, Georgia, USA — Martin Luther King Jr. listens at a meeting of the SCLC, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, at a restaurant in Atlanta. The SCLC is a civil rights organization formed by Martin Luther King after the success of the Montgomery bus boycott. — Image by © Flip Schulke/CORBIS

This week, amid stories of Russian spies, police brutality and debates about gun control and immigration, the nation’s collective conscience will drift for a moment to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the 50th anniversary of his death comes and goes. Assassinated at only 39 years old after rising to national prominence at a young age, I am convinced Dr. King’s work had just begun. His lasting impact on our society cannot be overestimated.

Yet, when today unarmed people are being murdered in their backyards and innocent victims are being targeted with bombs, we cannot question whether racially-motivated hatred still exists. Fifty years later, what would Dr. King have to say to us?

While most people do not perceive themselves as hateful, we can all agree that we have room to grow in our knowledge and understanding of those who look different from us. Growth can begin in a place where Dr. King perhaps felt most at home — the church.

As we read coverage of his life and accomplishments this week, let us not forget the inspiration and motivation for everything he did — his Christian faith. Dr. King’s reliance upon the Bible guided each step he took. If he had not been first a student of the Scriptures, I wonder if he would have had the tenacity, commitment to peace, magnetic appeal, confidence, courage and patience to pursue the work he did. We cannot separate his faith from the public figure he was and still is today.

Dr. King famously said that 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings was the “most segregated hour in America,” and this is still true today. However, his life bore witness to the reality that as long as there is oppression in the world, there will always be a need for safe spaces of worship for those who feel oppressed. But, what if American Christians, even those worshipping within their own racial contexts, began to reach out to one another in meaningful ways? What if we continued to embrace our religious heritage while working to understand members of the church across town? What if black pastors and white pastors were intentional about becoming friends and supporting one another? What if they studied God’s Word together and shared their life and ministry experiences? And what if their parishioners did the same?

Relationships lead to change. When people connect in deep and meaningful ways, walls begin to fall. We see each other more clearly and from that sight comes understanding. From understanding comes compassion, and from compassion comes empathy, shared experience and, finally, friendship.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Nicole Martin