The Gospel and Martin Luther King

This week all of America is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington and the famous “I have a dream” speech of Martin Luther King, Jr. That speech has become iconic in the history of the United States for its statement of King’s sense of justice and decency. His dream, that individuals might be judged on “the content of their character” rather than “the color of their skin,” has been realized in part, although we still have some ways to go.

Martin Luther King did not invent this notion of justice. A few thousand years before King lived, Jesus spoke about a “dream” he had. Jesus referred to his dream as “the kingdom of God.” This kingdom is a place where followers of Jesus live in love and peace and justice, caring for each other with compassion and commitment. Jesus’ idea of the kingdom was not a “dream,” of course. It will be a reality.

Martin Luther King himself was a follower of Jesus. King invoked the Bible and its images in his rhetoric of justice. King required those who participated in his protests to study the gospels. He believed that the words and deeds of Jesus provided the true model for challenging injustice.

Human beings and our institutions, including churches, are often behind when it comes to embodying the righteousness of the scriptures. God is way out ahead of us, leading us into this righteousness. But we are often trying to catch up to the justice that God’s word already embodies.

Martin Luther King alongside many brave souls, helped to make the United States into a country with more justice for everyone. Martin Luther King followed the King, Jesus Christ.  

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss

Pastor, Rocky River Baptist Church  

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