On the third Monday in January each year, we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—a remarkable person and activist who was a catalyst for change to move people forward together. His life’s work illustrates the power of using biblical principles to create a global impact.
Dr. King fought for positive social change throughout his life, in a time when it was very dangerous to stand out. From the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968, he led the Civil Rights Movement that forever changed the way our country views racial equality. Playing a key role in numerous peaceful protests and demonstrations, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington, he helped bring about rapid progress on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Dr. King’s accomplishments are numerous and he left behind an undeniable legacy. His father had fled his hometown in his youth after witnessing a public lynching and was offered an education by a local pastor, whose church he eventually pastored himself. Dr. King followed in his father’s footsteps by joining the ministry. His religious background, combined with his father’s example, and influences from Gandhi’s use of peaceful protest, shaped his belief in nonviolent resistance. Dr. King was the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which embraced the motto: “Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed.” Dr. King felt the Bible’s stance was clear—make change through loving your enemy.
Although this civil rights leader chose to protest peacefully, he was often persecuted for his beliefs. He was arrested 29 times for acts of civil disobedience, often on exaggerated charges, and faced relentless persecution, including one failed assassination attempt before the fatal shooting that took his life. Many of his family members were later killed in retaliation for the Civil Rights movement, paying the ultimate price for the freedom of their brothers and sisters.
Just like the road Dr. King traveled, Scripture-inspired change may come with challenges. We are not promised a problem-free life or even an easy one. However, we are told that God will give us what we need when we seek His will.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
To learn more about the injustice that Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up with and stood against, watch this moving interview with Eddie Beal, the great-nephew of Dr. King and a legal expert at Ronald Blue Trust, as he tells the heartbreaking story of his roots. Eddie explains that, despite tragedy, hope has remained through a sense of joy that can endure all.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.