MLK Day: A Changed World

MLKJr AllProDad“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” (MLK)

I’m thankful for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And I know that I don’t appreciate his work as much as others.

For so many in our country, Dr. King brought hope and life and freedom. Honestly, had he never given his life (literally) to spreading his message of equality, my life wouldn’t have been changed significantly. I would probably have the same amount of hope and freedom as I do now.

But I know that the lives of my friends (old and young) in Allendale are different than they would have been 50 years ago.

A Changed World for Our Family

But Dr. King’s work has blessed my life, too. For starters, I am blessed by seeing my African-American friends and students who have chances to succeed, and I’m especially made glad when I see them make the most of those opportunities and freedoms.

Our kids also have recognized these blessings.

Had we not had the chance to move to Allendale, and had we not been accepted by this community, they know that they would have missed out on so many friends that they have now. Sure, we might have moved here anyway, and we probably still would have made friends. But I get the feeling that the door is so much wider for us, and our eyes are so much more open to love and truth.

A Changed World for Many

Pastor and theologian John Piper also describes why he is thankful that Martin Luther King changed his life:

“Between that racially appalling world and this racially imperfect one strode Martin Luther King. We don’t know if the world would have changed without him, but we do know he was a rod in the hand of God.

Leave aside his theology and his moral flaws. He was used in the mighty hand of Providence to change the world so that the most appalling, blatant, degrading, public expressions of racism have gone away.

For that, this MLK day is worthy of our thankful reckoning.”

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy remembers the day that Dr. Martin Luther King was killed. His dad used this moment to teach Coach Dungy that life is about making the world a better place.

“Making life better for others” is a key theme of Dungy’s book The Mentor Leader, which I am going through with two groups of guys.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

A Changed World for the “White Moderate”?

Read these words from King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (April 1963):

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; . . .

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. . . .

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. . . .”

Slave of CircumstanceMartin Luther King’s message of equality, and his disappointment in “moderate whites,” is just as relevant today. The idea of “moderate whites” resisting change is common in Allendale, and has been for decades (see my review of A Slave of Circumstance).

I’ll leave you with two more great quotes from King:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

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