Grace, Truth, & MLK Jr

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

– John 1:14 ESV

 Jesus is the definition and standard of both grace and truth. He was, in fact, the embodiment of these traits and He promises those who have been saved by His grace and behold Him as Lord that they too will gradually and increasingly become more like Him. Today, people across America (and the world) honor a man who reflected the grace and truth of his Savior exceptionally clearly: Martin Luther King Jr.

Birmingham Jail

There is no doubt that MLK was a man of rare-breed. A pastor, civil rights leader, and non-violent activist who powerfully used love and truth to fight injustice; King was easily one of the most influential figures in the 20th century.

Below is a stirring excerpt of a letter written from his prison cell in Birmingham, to eight fellow pastors in the South (who were all white) who had called him out and labeled his actions, “unwise and untimely.” King responded in his typical manner, with both conviction and class:

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.”

But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”

MLK Jr is a shining example of the “grace and truth” that is found in Jesus Christ alone.

Martin Luther King JrAmongst many other things, King is a reminder to all Christians to stand firmly on the truth of God’s Word despite hostile opposition, to speak out against injustice and speak up for those who have no voice…

…all while extending the hand of grace to those who violently or silently oppose the truth.

To be deeply inspired and encouraged, download and read the entire letter here.

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