DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING HOLIDAY
Each year on the third Monday of January, America honors the birth, life, and dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a time to remember the injustices that Dr. King fought. A time to remember his fight for the freedom, equality, and dignity of all races and peoples through nonviolence.
Our church offices will be closed on Monday for two very important reasons: (1) In remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement; (2) In honor of our valued African-American church members, some of whom have experienced the harsh reality of racial prejudice in their lifetimes.
Dr. Matthew Hall from Southern Seminary wrote an article about the significance of that day. I have included a section of that article in my blog to offer additional information on the significance of this day. Here it is:
As a national holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day calls all Americans to pause and reflect on our national history. It should prompt good civil discourse that assesses where we’ve come from, where we need to go, and how we might get there as a society. This is an important part of the legacy of Dr. King and the black freedom movement–calling Americans of every color and creed to work together for the common good, to preserve and ensure that the promises made in our constitutional freedoms are protected for every one of our fellow citizens. It’s a call to make sure we live up to the standards and ideals we say are at the very heart of the American experiment.
But this day also calls Christians in particular to renew a gospel-centered vision for our life together. King spoke to our national conscience and organized for legal change in ways that transcended sect or creed, to be sure. But the heart of the civil rights movement was in its appeal to the church. Yes, King and the civil rights movement appealed to our national conscience to live up to the democratic promises of our Founders. But the animating ideas, songs, and vision of the movement were not most fundamentally in ideals of American democracy but in ancient and divinely revealed truths, in what God has said to be true. And that legacy still rings true for evangelicals in 2020.
Preaching in New York as the brutal Freedom Summer of 1964 was nearing its end, King articulated a call for this kind of witness. A true Baptist at heart, he understood the necessary connection between religious freedom and the church’s obligation to be faithful in its witness, even when the state would seek to suppress it.
The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.
That call from Dr. King still rings loud and true. Evangelicals of all people are those that understand that this call to justice and reconciliation is no “social gospel.” As those identified by our own designation as “gospel people,” we are those that confess the centrality of the salvific act at Calvary, the necessity of a substitutionary bloody sacrifice offered up for sons and daughters of Adam, the vindication of the crucified King by his bodily resurrection and empty tomb, and the good news that by grace through faith any sinner can be declared righteous in Christ, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic class. That’s good news. That’s gospel truth. But we still urgently need to hear Dr. King’s call to recognize that our creed must manifest itself in deed. If we preach calling sinners to be reconciled to God, but perpetuate the dividing walls of hostility that Christ came to tear down (Eph. 2:14), we have likely not understood the gospel.