The first federal Martin Luther King Jr. Day was in 1986, although it took some states longer to adopt it. At any rate, this January will mark the 32nd M.L. King Day and it will fall on his actual birthday, January 15. Had he lived, Dr. King would be celebrating his 89th birthday.
Or should I say Rev. King would be celebrating his 89th birthday. Even 32 years later, I’m still amused that our “separation-of-church-and-state” nation nonetheless sets aside one full day every year to honor a preacher of the Gospel.
Recently I picked up my copy of Rev. King’s book, Strength to Love. It’s really a collection of his sermons, and most are just as timely today as they were when they were published in 1963. Here are a few tidbits from Rev. King:
“‘How oft,’ (Peter) asked, “shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?’ Peter wanted to be legal and statistical. But Jesus responded by affirming that there is no limit to forgiveness. ‘I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.’ In other words, forgiveness is not a matter of quantity, but of quality. A man cannot forgive up to four hundred and ninety times without forgiveness becoming a part of the habit structure of his being. Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude” (pg. 40).
“Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminates even the possibility that war may serve as a negative good. If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survival, then we must find an alternative to war.”
“We are commanded to love God, not only with our hearts and souls, but also with our minds…We have a mandate both to conquer sin and also to conquer ignorance” (pg. 47).
“Hate is injurious to the person who hates. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hates destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true” (pg. 53).
“Our abundance has brought us neither peace of mind nor serenity of spirit” (pg. 75).
“The Christian faith makes it possible for us nobly to accept that which cannot be changed, to meet disappointment and sorrow with an inner poise, and to absorb the most intense pain without abandoning our sense of hope, for we know, as Paul testified, in life or in death, in Spain or in Rome, ‘that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (pg. 96).
“When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a great benign Power in the universe whose name is God, and he is able to make a way out of no way, and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. This is our hope for becoming better men. This is our mandate for seeking to make a better world” (pg. 114).
Happy New Year!