I was a young boy of eleven when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. I grew up, in many ways, in his shadow living in Atlanta, Georgia. I saw the integration of the public schools take place when I was in the 5th grade as a result of his work and efforts. To be honest, it was no big deal to me. I enjoyed having black classmates. As an athlete in school myself, I especially made connections with the black athletes. My two best friends in the 8th grade were Andrea Greer, (son of a black Baptist pastor) an outstanding quarterback, and Derrick Stokes, also black and one of the most incredible defensive ends I had ever seen. Even now I have the fondest memories of both.
Further, my grandparents’ farm was next to a black family’s farm and we (all the kids) ran back and forth from both and played with each other almost every time we went to visit. My mother, in particular, taught me to love and care for all without discrimination because that is the way Jesus loves us and the world. That seemed clear and simple enough, and to be honest, I am not sure you can improve on it.
Unfortunately, working out this way of thinking is easier said than done, especially for adults. What seems so clear and easy as children, for some reason, becomes more complex when we “grow up.”
In that context, we need continual reminders of what it means to live together and work together for the good of all as those who uniquely bear the image of our Creator God. Martin Luther King Jr. was, without question, a gifted orator. On this day let’s be reminded of a few things he said to help us grasp and hold on to a vision of equality and value for all that children, and yes, even adults, can understand and, by God’s grace, extend gladly and willingly to all others.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish as fools.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend”