This past weekend, as a nation we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. day. For us in the Church, this day and the work of MLK has deeper meaning. In Martin Luther King Jr. we recognize a prophet of God, shaped and formed in devotion and worship to Jesus Christ. His teaching and activism are a tangible reminder and call for all Christians to recognize injustice in the world and to work to see God’s justice and rightness established. As the Church, we are called to be people who, empowered by the Holy Spirit, seek to right the world’s wrongs.
We do this because that was part of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus came to set all things to right. We see this in Luke 4:18-19 when Jesus quotes the Prophet Isaiah to give clarity and vision to Jesus’ earthly mission: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. God has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus is clear, those whom he calls to be his disciples he calls to join in the continuation of this ministry of liberating the oppressed. Jesus even goes so far as to say our own salvation is tied up in our faithful participation in Christ’s work of establishing the rightness of the Reign of God on earth. “Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me…I assure you, that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” (Matthew 25:34-36, 40).
Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and ministry was a tangible example of what working for justice and seeking to liberate the oppressed looks like in this world. The injustice and oppression of racism and privilege are things that do not bring God glory and as followers of Christ we are called to work to eradicate. Thanks be to God for Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and witness and may we, the Church of Jesus Christ, be strengthened in our discipleship because of MLK’s faithfulness.
I will conclude these reflections with a prayer written by Martin Luther King Jr. and found in our Presbyterian Book of Common Worship: “Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right side or your left side, not for any selfish reason. I want to be on your right or your best side, not in terms of some political kingdom or ambition, but I just want to be there in love and in justice and in truth and in commitment to others, so we can make of this old world a new world. Amen.”