5 Ways You Can Honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy
If you feel like giving up after last year, we encourage you to move forward
Today we take time as a nation to honor Martin Luther King Jr., who devoted his life to the cause of civil rights in America. As the people of God, it is important that we continue to reflect the heart of Jesus as we move forward to address issues of racial justice and reconciliation in our nation. I encourage you to read through the following article and consider committing to one or two of the suggestions as you go through your day.
Kevin Kompelien, EFCA President
After a tumultuous year, filled with racial unrest over George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery’s tragic deaths (among so many others), it often feels like little has changed in the conversation on race, racism and racial reconciliation since Martin Luther King Jr. led the Civil Rights Movement. Out of frustration, a feeling of helplessness or perhaps knowing something is wrong but not knowing what to do about it, we might throw up our hands, turn off our ears and give up. In those moments, we encourage you to seek Jesus and find confidence in Him. Thankfully, Martin Luther King Jr. Day offers us a time to act in repentance, love, compassion and service. Here are 5 ways you can honor his legacy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
1. Reflect on God‘s Word
When we see something wrong in the world, with society or with a friend, we might want to tackle it head on and call out the problem. You see this played out under a microscope online. We’re quick to anger and slow to listen, rather than the other way around. So, instead, take a moment to pause and reflect, as Jesus commands in Matthew 7:5 to “first take the log out of your own eye.”
Rather than racing to the internet to speak on an issue, let’s humble ourselves before the Lord and look long and hard in the mirror. In that reflection, we can take note of what’s in our hearts. What’s been holding us back from pursuing this topic? In what ways have we been part of the problem? How can we have a God-honoring posture?
During this time, be reminded of God’s Heavenly Kingdom full of all people praising Him in His glory:
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9
2. Fast and pray
We live in a time of enormous difficulty. To get through hard times, we might lean more on our strength, our wealth and our power rather than God. In fasting and prayer, let’s break from that shifting sand and stand on His solid ground.
In fasting, we can change our perspective from the tangible things we depend on to our Father in heaven who loves us and provides all things for us. In prayer, we can turn our attention to the lost, the broken and the marginalized.
We can ask God for help in taking a first step, and a renewed strength and confidence each day, in pursuing His righteousness on issues of race and racial reconciliation. Finally, we can pray for a blessing over our brothers and sisters of color and that healing and friendship will form through the Holy Spirit.
3. Build relationships
In the EFCA document “The Gospel, Racism and the EFCA: Resolution (1992) and Resolve,” we are reminded that it’s the white majority’s responsibility within our denomination to initiate a relationship:
“One final application point for the EFCA as we proclaim and live out the gospel. Because we are predominately a white denomination, it is incumbent for the white majority to reach out and initiate with the other, the soon-to-come majority minority – African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, Native American and others. After we initiate, we then take a humble posture of listening. We initiate with a spirit of humility and we listen with a posture of love. This is a glorious way to live, to manifest the gospel in the EFCA, and to reflect the new heavens and new earth here and now.”
For us to show a glimpse of what Revelation 7:9 will look like on earth, we need to be intentional about building relationships with people of color. With that in mind, now may be the right time to pick up the phone, send a text or reach out on the internet to a person of color you know and build authentic Christian community. Make an effort to build bridges, to listen intently, ask questions and together lift your concerns and requests to the Lord in prayer.
4. Devote the day to learning
We live in a day and age filled with resources on a variety of topics, including racial reconciliation, many of which are right at our fingertips. We can sift through what's available but might end up not knowing where to start and become overwhelmed. We might also struggle to determine the credibility of the resource. But, as Christians, we should intentionally pursue truth and learn more about a subject to grow and transform our minds for His purposes.
Several years ago, Greg Strand, EFCA Executive Director of the Theology and Credentialing, used Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a day of learning and offered several podcasts on the topic of race. These podcasts delve into issues from what white Christians need to know about the black church to the “Theology of Race.”
Perhaps consider taking 30 minutes to an hour out of your day to listen to those podcasts, find a book on the subject at the library, or watch a movie that you know has been recommended by a trusted authority.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is often a time for many to volunteer at a local charity organization. This can look different for everyone, and in the COVID-19 era with social distancing, volunteer opportunities may be sparce. Volunteering doesn’t have to be formal or organized. Volunteering your time could be a simple act of kindness to your neighbor, going out of your way to help someone in need in the community, paying for the meal of the person behind you in line at the drive-thru, picking up the litter in your neighborhood, reaching out by phone or video call to someone who needs your encouragement and taking that extra time to show someone you love them.
As he marched for civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr. endured suffering at every turn. From the jails of Birmingham to the bridges of Selma, he preached and demonstrated non-violence protest and was unjustly punished for it. Throughout his ministry, he endured through many hardships for civil rights up until his tragic assassination on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. Today, we can honor his legacy with the same spirit of endurance with the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus Christ.