“Whatever we do, we must keep God in the forefront. Let us be Christian in all of our actions.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Much like his namesake, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a reformer. But rather than facing off against the Roman Catholic Church, he fought as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1953, at the ripe age of 25, the newly married King and his bride Coretta moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where he became the minister at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
Two years later, Rosa Parks, also of Montgomery, was arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus, and the Civil Rights Movement began.
Local pastors created the Montgomery Improvement Association, elected King as president and brought together the black community to establish a citywide bus boycott.
A year later, bus discrimination ended and he became a nationally-known figure.
Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s life and Henry David Thoreau’s On Civil Disobedience, King led the MIA, and the movement as a whole, as a nonviolent activist. Even after his home was bombed, he refused to allow the people guarding his home to carry guns.
And when he almost died from a stab wound, he “became convinced that if the movement held to the spirit of nonviolence, our struggle and example would challenge and help redeem not only America but the world.”
Even as he was speaking and leading nonviolent protests, King continued serving as a minister. Sometimes in his sermons he would incorporate political topics and during his public speeches, he would often incorporate biblical themes. This is because he didn’t see his civil rights involvement as separate from his ministry.
“The Christian gospel is a two-way road. On the one hand, it seeks to change the souls of men, and thereby unite them with God; on the other hand, it seeks to change the environmental conditions of men so the soul will have a chance after it is changed.”
Next Monday, January 18, we remember all that Martin Luther King, Jr. did for his community, his country and the world.
We honor his courage and his steadfast faith, even in the face of constant danger.
And we can learn from his example by “keeping God at the forefront.”