Today, a nation reflects on and celebrates the legacy of one man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a man just like the rest of us, human, finite, imperfect. But he had a dream and a vision, one that was infectious, one that has inspired multitudes and generations and peoples of all backgrounds, one that a common sense of purpose and oneness and unity that few since have been able to create. I can only imagine Dr. King as a child, what he thought he would become, what impact his life would have on society and the world. Little did he know that his life would be the instrument God used, and continues to use, to ignite the fires of reconciliation, justice, and unity for the cause of the disenfranchised and misrepresented masses. Little did he know that many a brilliant black mind would be able to voice his and her opinion, and be heard by people of all races and creeds. Little did he know that he would pave the way for a biracial man to be elected president, TWICE. And yet, little did he know that the struggle he championed and fought so valiantly for would continue to evolve with the times, and become less overt while becoming all the more insidious. Little did he know that, somehow, the fight would seem perpetual, so long as ignorance existed in the world. Hmm…
When I consider the legacy of Dr. King, I instantly think of the words of the Lord to the Israelites through Micah:
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV)
The Message puts it this way:
But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what GOD is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously. (Micah 6:8 MSG)
Dr. King embodied these words with his life, and challenged the rest of us to live up to this seemingly simple standard of how to live in this world, on this side of eternity. The way he carried himself, the way he spoke to and about people and the struggle for justice for black people, the way he interacted with others. He LIVED Micah 6:8. And this is the barometer by which we ought to conduct ourselves in the face of adversity, hardship, and injustice. We continue to fight, but not at the expense of our dignity and our faith. We continue to march, but not at the cost of our neighborhoods and our livelihood. We continue to take a stand, but not at the expense of those who would, could, and should stand with us as we raise our banners high and sing our songs of deliverance. Because our voices are better heard and received when we fight for justice while walking in mercy. Our message is embraced when we stand in solidarity, and not in strife. And our songs will resonate higher and reach deeper when we sing from our souls, and not yell from our hatred.
Indeed, the struggle continues. We must continue to fight for the lives of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and all beloved ones who have fallen at the hands of injustice. We must continue to counter the messages of failure and worthlessness that plague our communities, turning us brother against brother and sister against sister. We must reach our hands in fellowship to those who may not share our struggle personally, but share the passion for justice that will move our cause forward in progress. And we must learn to love ourselves — our dark chocolates, our milk chocolates, our caramels, our mochas, and yes, our swirls. Because, at the end of the day, we are still reflections of our Creator, beautiful in His eyes first and foremost, and beloved more than anything in Creation. We mustn’t forget to honor the tapestry that is US — the richness of our heritage, the joys of our history, and the promise still of our future. We must teach the next generation to be proud of who we are and from whence we came. We must educate them in how we stand of the great shoulders of many nameless men and women who marched and fought and suffered and died so that we might have access to OUR CHOICE of so many resources and avenues. And we must continue to pave the way for the generation following. This is how we honor the dream Dr. King spoke about. This is how we keep moving forward. This is how we keep his dream alive and his legacy strong.
Thank you, Dr. King, for being the change that you wanted to see in the world. Thank you for showing us how to do justice, love mercy, and walk ever so humbly with our God. Thank you for being obedient to the call. May we do all we can NOT to tarnish your memory or your legacy.