Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was many things–Preacher, Leader, “Drum Major” for justice and peace, Nobel Laureate, and inspiration to countless people in the fight for equal rights for all. But today, I want to focus on the fact that he was a deeply devout man, with a spiritual depth that fed all of his amazing work.
In my office, I have a picture of Dr. King that I picked up when I was in Atlanta a few years ago. Underneath it, I have put this quote: “It is no more possible to be a Christian without prayer than it is to be alive without breathing.” Dr. King understood that the ground of all his work was what Julian of Norwich called “the ground of all beseeching,” God’s own Spirit. His deep connection to his faith, through a life of prayer and study that is well-documented, is what kept Dr. King going when times got tough, and it seemed that no one else knew where God was calling him next. It was his faith in God, and in the promise of new life in Christ that allowed him to have such confidence in his cause, peace in the midst of chaos, and a sense of personal safety even in the face of regular death threats.
This is not to say that everything was peace and roses for Dr. King. Indeed, his faith called him to places that tried his spirit and tested his resolve on a number of occasions. His faith was one forged in the crucible of political and public action. His principles were the result of hard-fought battles on the frontline of America’s most tumultuous times.
So today, I salute Dr. King the reformer and leader of the civil rights movement. But I also remember one of God’s saints, who now rests from his labors, and whose life and work call upon each of us to take up the banner of justice and freedom and carry it forward, rooted and grounded in the love and grace of God.