The Legacy of King

More than thirty years ago, (1986) Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a national holiday. Designated to be observed the third Monday in January, near King’s birthday on the fifteenth, the date did not happen without controversy.

The civil rights leader who advocated harmony, became the center of conflict.

Some states refused to adopt the observance, or chose to call it something else altogether, maintaining King lived as a private citizen, never held office, and hadn’t achieved the status of national figures who already had holidays named for them.

I long associated the holiday with a history of violence, considering the string of assassinations that occurred in the 1960s. I never understood King’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, nor did I have a complete picture of the man—as minister, humanitarian, and leader.

But his record was impressive. 

At age 33, King pressed the case of civil rights with President John Kennedy. The following year he galvanized the nation with his “I have a Dream” speech, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in its wake. At the time of his assassination, many declared he left a legacy of hope and inspiration.

I can’t help but believe the source of King’s fervor came from the original advocate of peace—Jesus Christ, God’s son. Jesus inhabited our earth for a short thirty-three years, bringing light to a dying world, hope to those who have none, and peace to those in dispute.

In Luke 6:27-28, 35 (KJV) Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you and pray for them which despitefully use you. . . Love your enemies and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again, and your reward shall be great.”

King echoed that scripture when he said. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” 

It would appear that Martin Luther King Jr took his marching orders from another King–the one and only son of God who promised each one of us eternal life if we but believe in His name. Acts 16:31 says: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

Such a simple thing to do but so many miss it because of its simplicity.

May you find eternal peace from the only One who can truly give it—our Savior Jesus Christ.

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