Martin Luther King Jr. Day was celebrated across our country yesterday. It is a day set aside to honor the late Dr. King, but also a day in which we remember the cause for which. And what was the cause for which Dr. King stood? He is recognized as one of the most influential leaders in US history and a benchmark for the civil rights movement. But I believe that Dr. King's cause extends well beyond civil rights.
Simply hearing the name Dr. King reveals a clue as to his cause. The "Dr" in his name is not some sort of honorary degree extended because of his influential status. Dr. King received his doctoral degree from Boston University in 1955 in systematic theology. Simply said, Dr. King's degree was a result of his desire to know God more. It was his understanding of a personal and loving God that drove him to lead others as a pastor. It was his understanding of God's love for people and God's command that we love our neighbors that drove him to passionately and vigorously pursue the rights of the downtrodden.
In his book, Strength to Love, Dr. King wrote these words: "The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others." Last week at Life Church, we were reminded that we are commanded to love our neighbor. We also saw how Jesus described our neighbor as someone who might be hurting and who has been rejected. We saw in the story of the good Samaritan that our love of our neighbor may require risking our position, prestige, and even our own life.
The sadness in the story of the good Samaritan is that there were religious people who were not willing to risk anything to show love. But we are not called to simply be religious, we are called to be followers of Jesus.
Dr. King's cause was to love God and love people through his love for God. Dr. King risked and gave his life for this cause. He followed a Savior who gave His life for love. Oh, that we would all be so willing to risk it all to share the love of Christ.
Dr. King's cause is not complete. And even if there were no civil rights concerns (which there still are), there will always be downtrodden people who need the love of Jesus to be carried out in action. So as we remember this great man, let us not separate his cause from the cause of Christ. Let us love in a way that will change the world. Let us be an example to the world of what it looks like when we truly love our neighbors with word and deed.