Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached justice, non-violence and love. He could well have chosen a violent and vindictive reaction to the many bigots who hurled accusations and bombs at him and his colleagues. By his actions even more than by his words King showed us how to work for change with persistence, patience and love. This excerpt from King's Letter from Birmingham Jail of |April 16, 1963 continues to remind us of the power of love:
But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.We need to pray for all our leaders as St. Peter and St. Paul both remind us.
If you have never read King's entire Letter from Birmingham Jail take the time to do so. In it, Dr. King is responding to some clergymen who thought his efforts were untimely and extreme. In clear and logical order, Dr. King answered all their questions. He quotes both St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas among others. May he be with them and the other saints in the heavenly courts. Amen.