A lot of people leave out the Christian part when it comes to Martin Luther King Jnr because they either don’t know, or don’t really wanna know. Like all, especially those who move from the position of spectator, to being on the field, he wasn’t without sin, but he was a man who knew that ALL sin is answered first and foremost by God, in and through Jesus Christ.
After posting this illustration from Vince Conard to Facebook, a friend pointed out that given the tone, aggression and disunity of our day, mention of Martin’s faith, is anathema on some circles within the West. The fact that he was named after a German theologian and reformer, in 1934, of all years, presents a challenge to those who rail against the West in the name of a mostly concocted cause, in ways far from King’s own.
Martin Luther King’s legacy is first of all a Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the overcoming of sin. All sin, not just the bits and pieces some people choose to focus on over others, including the sin of treating others, who are created in the image of God, differently because of the colour of their skin.
Martin Luther King’s legacy is a Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the liberation of humanity from its primal atheism. This is a liberation from humanity’s rejection of grace, its self-displacement, subsequent displacement of others and self-destruction.
Karl Barth spoke consistently about his view that the “no” of God heard in Jesus Christ has nothing on the great “yes” of God, spoken at the same time. This humiliation of God is the exaltation of humanity. This is something He chose and in exercising His freedom God hands to us freedom.
Freedom consecrated by response, responsibility, partnership with God, prophesy, ministry, healing and teaching. Freedom made real by His choice and His suffering at the hands of whip, condemnation, betrayal, spear, and death on a Roman cross. Freedom vindicated by the empty tomb and the resurrected Jesus, who is not another myth like that of the half-god/half-man Hercules, but is Himself very God and very man.
What grounded Martin Luther King from the start was faith in Jesus Christ. It’s well documented that when things weighed MLK down, he would lean on the gifts of Mahalia Jackson, who would minister to him through word and song. It’s his defiant Christian faith that should inspire us and point us to the goal of liberation as he saw it, liberation from ALL sin, in the name, word and deeds of Jesus the Christ.
“God is neither hard-hearted or soft minded. He is tough-minded enough to transcend the world; He is tender-hearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us to our agonies and struggles. He seeks for us in dark places and suffers with us, and for us in our tragic prodigality.” (A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart, Gift of Love, p.9)
The faith of Martin Luther King Jnr is not to be confused with optimism. It’s not the “faith” of optimists and psychologists who preach from the pages of positive psychology. The clever term they use in order to justify reducing the Christian faith to principles that can be lived without any need for a relationship with the One who authored that faith; the One who anchors humanity to the living hope this defiant faith testifies to.
To segregate Martin Luther King Jnr from this defiant Christian faith, is to fail to hear what it is that he had to say, what he set in motion, and what he hoped to see achieved. This segregating of King from his faith and theology may serve the secular political aims of modern liberals and their quest for total power by any means necessary, but it ultimately enslaves King to the servitude of ideology-as-master and the reactionary political groups it controls. Groups and agendas, he, in all likelihood would never have signed on to because they persist in denying their own sin, and yet, are loud and proud in their condemnation of the sin of others.
Paraphrasing Thomas F. Torrance from his book Atonement: ‘all self-justification is a lie’.
Beware the auctioneers.
Artist: Vince Conard, https://www.instagram.com/vince_conard/ (Used with permission)
King, Jnr. M.L. A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart, Gift of Love (p.9)
Torrance, T.F. 2009 Atonement: The Person & Work of Jesus Christ InterVarsity Press