MLK

With This Faith! (What made Dr. King’s Dream righteous)

400px-Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.

Today, we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life-long devotion to the advancement of civil rights led to the end of institutionalized Jim Crow across the American South.

Dr. King was not the first to dream of an America where people would be judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. He was not the first to march, and he was not the first to protest.

Dr. King’s approach of non-violent resistance, civil disobedience dates back to the efforts of Melvin Tolson at Wiley College in Marshall, Tex., in the mid 1930s. From Tolson’s efforts, sharecroppers unionized, and one of his pupils at Wiley went on to found the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE). For what it’s worth, the approach of civil disobedience dates back to an essay by Henry David Thoreau written in the 1840s.

Dr. King was not the first to dream, nor was he the first to act. So, why was his movement the first to effect tangible change? How did Dr. King’s movement transform the nation?

The answer lies in his heart.

The heart of Dr. King, from which his plans for the civil rights movement were built, was laid out in a sermon he preached at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., on November 17, 1957. In his sermon, titled, “Love Your Enemies,” Dr. King explained that the darkness from anger sparked by racial injustice could not drive out the darkness of the racism itself, that only light could drive out darkness.

Dr. King explained the concept of love, what it means to love your enemies, and that love has a redemptive power. Redemption, it means to free one from the bonds of sin. To redeem your enemies means to convert them and to bring them over to your side. The concept is rooted in the Gospel.

Dr. King loved America, and wanted to see America redeemed from it’s racial injustice. To do this, Dr. King trusted the Lord’s word to love his enemies. His entire movement was built on his faith.

The concept of love and redemption carried over into his work in the early 1960s, highlighted by his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  In that speech, Dr. King explained how his faith continued to motivate his work:

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

Dr. King understood that his dream may not be fully realized during his life, or even during this world, but that one day, the Lord would return, and then his dream would be realized. He encouraged others in this faith, noting that unjust suffering had a redemptive quality.

Dr. King continued his work, influencing the passage of key legislation and the changing of attitudes. He left a legacy, not only of dedication, but of success.

However, Dr. King’s faith was never more evident than when he gave his famous “Mountain Top Speech,” in which he drew a parallel with Moses, saying that God had allowed him to go to the mountain top, and see the promised land.

Whether Dr. King had a mountain top experience heading into Memphis in 1968, or whether he had always worked with the knowledge that he would not see his dream fulfilled in his lifetime, he lived with the faith that God would bring that dream about.

For Dr. King, his dream was tangible, and would certainly come to pass, because his faith had made it real. As he concluded his final public address, he stated:

And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

What empowered Dr. King’s dream, his work and his activism was his faith. His faith that this cause was in line with God’s will. His faith was so strong that his dream and cause were tangible, which is what faith does, according to Hebrews 11:1.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., transformed America, not only by showing us the sin of racial injustice and spurring us to repentance, but also by demonstrating the power of a life lived by faith.

We may not transform a nation, or subdue a kingdom, but if we live our lives by our faith in the Lord, we too can see powerful things happen.

To live this faith, we must first have faith in the Lord, trust that He exists and that He receives those who come to Him for salvation. Then, we must trust that the Lord loves and does what’s best for us. The final piece is a trust in the Lord’s plan, and a willingness to move into line with God’s plan.

These are the ingredients to a life of faith, and Dr. King is a prime example of what can happen when one lives by faith. That’s why Dr. King’s dream was a righteous dream, and why his movement was so effective.

Why Jesus said, “Love Your Enemies”

Sunday, November 17, 1957, the young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stepped into the pulpit at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Ala., to deliver one of his most profound sermons, ever. The sermon, entitled, “Love Your Enemies,” taken from Matthew 5, not only presented a Biblical definition of love, and God’s commandment to have this love toward all men. It also outlined the philosophy of Dr. King’s Civil Rights Movement from that day forward.

The Civil Rights Movement had just secured a major victory after the Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery’s ordinances segregating the bus lines were unconstitutional. In the aftermath of that victory, Dr. King saw that his method of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience to the Jim Crow laws of the South could secure more freedoms for his people, and put an end to racial segregation.

However, Dr. King also realized that while those political, legislative and judicial victories could put an end to institutional racial discrimination, they could never put an end to racism, or heal the wounds left from America’s racial strife. Dr. King understood that for there to be true peace and equality, America had to be redeemed from its past, not defeated because of it.

Therefore, love became central to Dr. King’s message. In His sermon, “Love Your Enemies,” Dr. King said that God commanded us to love our enemies, not only because God is love, because God loves them, and He wants to redeem them, but because love itself has a redemptive quality.

“Love has within it, a redemptive power,” Dr. King stated. “And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals.

“That’s why Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies,'” he continued, “Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and transform them.”

Dr. King went on to say that at the root of love is the power of redemption.

This concept is not only a philosophy put forth by Dr. King. It was stated by Jesus Christ Himself in Luke 6:35-36:

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

This love that God had toward us motivated Him to give His only begotten Son for our salvation (John 3:16). The love God had toward us redeemed us. We can extend that same redeeming love to others, and in doing so, we can see others transformed by the power of the Gospel into the people God created them to be.

Today, America is divided. Political discourse has grown harsh, cold, and even leads to physical violence. With each passing day, our society becomes more about us vs. them than it is about E pluribus unim.

With more sin and evil being propagated in our society, and more rancid division arising daily, it becomes easy to look at those on the other side as enemies, and work to defeat them. This runs contrary to scripture.

While scripture teaches us to hate sin and to hate evil, we are also commanded to love the sinner. While “love the sinner but hate the sin” seems to be a modern cliche, we are taught by the Word that if we love the sinner, we can see him redeemed from the sin. Isn’t that the goal that all believers should have toward non-believers?

So, as we move toward 2018, let’s make an effort to see people as God sees them. Let’s love people, and see the redemptive power of love come alive.

Leland Acker is the pastor of Life Point Baptist Church. Life Point meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Services are held at the Early Chamber of Commerce building at 104 E. Industrial in Early. This week, Bro. Waymon Childress will bring the morning message.