Tonight SCF will celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., one of the great men of faith in our nation’s history. While there is still much debate over the issue of race in our country, any sane will person will agree that MLK, while flawed, is a man worthy of our admiration. Our country is radically different, for the better, because of his life and legacy.

 

There is still work to be done. His dream is still far from being realized. But there is no denying that MLK forever changed the racial landscape in our nation.

 

When people talk of the white northern suburbs, that’s my home they are talking about. I had little exposure to people of any different color until I came to MSU for college. Not only did I not have black friends, but I did not have any Asian friends, Hispanic friends or really any kind of friend that did not look just like me. I was enrolled in a high school of 2,000 and remember only a handful of Asian students. I had a white upbringing through and through. MLK to a white suburbanite youth, like myself, was always a hero but never really my hero. I respected him, was thankful for him and even admired him, but always from a distance. I could understand why others would want to celebrate him, but since his life had no immediate bearing on mine I kept a distance.

 

How naïve I was.

 

But by God’s grace that is changing. I’m still naïve, but hopefully not as a naïve. Through friends, circumstance, reading the Bible, becoming more aware of past history and current events, I still affirm that MLK was a hero for others, but I can now gladly affirm that he is a hero of mine. Here are 3 simple reasons why.

 

1) MLK reminds me that while suffering hurts, it is both the path of Christian discipleship and ultimately God’s plan for redemption.

 

And so my friends, they did not die in vain. God still has a way of wringing good out of evil. And history has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive. The innocent blood of these little girls may well serve as a redemptive force that will bring new light to this dark city.

 

– Excerpts from the Eulogy for the Martyred Children

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

September 18, 1963

 

2) MLK reminds me that the imago dei (image of God) must actually mean something.

 

You see the founding fathers were really influenced by the Bible. The whole concept of the imago dei … is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected. Not that they have substantial unity with God, but that every man has a capacity to have fellowship with God. And this gives him uniqueness…. There are no gradations in the image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God. One day we will learn that. We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man.

 

– Delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

July 4, 1965

 

3) MLK reminds me that we must be careful to not drive an unwarranted wedge between the spiritual and the physical.

 

Now the other myth that gets around is the idea that legislation cannot really solve the problem and that it has no great role to play in this period of social change because you’ve got to change the heart and you can’t change the heart through legislation. You can’t legislate morals. The job must be done through education and religion.

 

Well, there’s half-truth involved here.

 

Certainly, if the problem is to be solved then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart.

 

But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. (As a side note this is Calvin’s 2nd use of the law.)

 

It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also.

 

So there is a need for executive orders.

There is a need for judicial decrees.

There is a need for civil rights legislation on the local scale within states and on the national scale from the federal government.

 

– Address at Western Michigan University

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

December 18, 1963

 

As a white suburbanite I’ve been a bit behind the times in affirming what so many have known for so long. MLK is a hero, not just for blacks but for all, including me.

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