Worth the time to read the entire work, the opening six paragraphs reflect Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s heart — his values, motivations, character, foundation. Worth contemplating what patterns and purposes might be adopted into our own lives. Here are a few things that caught my attention in the phenomenal first few paragraphs…
Dr. King was not a rogue demonstrator…not a protestor for protesting’s sake…not a man randomly traveling about. MLK was organizationally recognized and relationally connected. Dr. King had risen to positions of recognized leadership through dedication and sincerity, and from within the bounds and responsibilities of those roles he responded to the needs, demands and requests of those for whom he worked, served, and was relationally interconnected.
It’s often difficult to know what cause to join, what need to meet, what expense to incur, which resources to employ. We cannot do everything, nor should we. We cannot be everywhere, nor should we. At least one aspect of our calling can be connected to and defined by the very place that God has put you. Scripture encourages us to know and operate under the assumption that God has placed each one in the Church precisely where He wants us (1 Cor 12:18). The concerns that fall within the reach of where God currently has us should garner most of our attention.
Secondly, yet likely of first priority, Dr. King allowed the motivation and purposes of Jesus (and the Old Testament prophet who foreshadowed Jesus) to be his own. Rather than self-seeking ends, power-grabs and wealth pursuits, MLK followed Jesus to those in need. He was motivated to go to any length for the marginalized, the down-trodden, those ostracized and [beaten] by the powerful (Isaiah 61:1–2; Luke 4:18–19).
A self-centered life cannot end as a life well-lived. A self-centered life can only perpetuate the decline of humanity, no matter how small or inconsequential you may deem your selfish life to be. Only a life lived for the sake of others can find its way to meaning and purpose that stirs and invigorates the soul. Only a life lived for the poor, the prisoner and the oppressed is one worthy of the calling to which Jesus compels us…one that is smiled upon by God.
Yet, the selfless life is not a choice. Most of us have tried to will ourselves to unselfishness. Dr. King would tell you himself, it is not a choice. Selflessness, others-centeredness, sacrificial living is purely the result of the painful recognition that we are all destined for selfishness and destruction apart from Jesus first saving us from our own power struggle with God. Only the forgiven soul, reconciled to God by grace through faith in Jesus (Eph 2:4–9) enjoys a heart that is free to give, to care, to love, like Jesus did. Like Dr. King did.
Dr. Martin Luther King’s was a life worthy of patterning our own because his life was not only patterned after Jesus, but saved by Jesus. Thank you Dr. King for leading us to Jesus and to the selfless purposes of a Godly life.