There is a verse of Scripture in the book of Proverbs that states: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his sons, son; and the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous” Proverbs 13.22. This proverb deals with the concept of legacy and transfer of income and inheritance from one generation to the next.
It is the desire of parents to lay a firm foundation and to transfer their human capital, contacts, knowledge, and wise experiences to their children.
Individuals, nations, organizations, and sports entities all endeavor to project themselves into the future and leave positive legacies to their constituents.
As our nation embarks on celebrating the life and ministry of the late Pastor Martin Luther King, Jr., this provides an opportunity for all Americans to reflect on what Dr. King’s contributions have meant for posterity.
Had he lived until January 15th of this year the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 87 years old (1929–1968).
It is almost inconceivable for us to think of Pastor King as a gray and perhaps balding man in his late eighties; he died at the young age of 39 in the prime of life.
Pastor King’s life – along with the lives of President John F. Kennedy and the late Senator Robert Francis Kennedy – was tragically removed from American life during the tumultuous decade of the 1960s.
The images that we have of Pastor King are one of an eternally young minister who is perhaps best remembered for his “I Have A Dream” speech that he gave on a sunny August day in 1963.
During his life, Pastor King stirred either positive or violent emotions in people.
There were many people who saw him as a “Christian minister” who sought to fight against the manifold evils of segregation, racism, poverty, and militarism.
Other people saw Dr. King as a rabble-rouser, a womanizer, or quite possibly as a Communist sympathizer who sought to radically transform the American free enterprise system.
It is not the desire of this writer to enter into this ongoing fray, but to rather argue that Pastor King was a Christian of Orthodox beliefs , and a Baptist minister who argued in the “public square” on the basis of Biblically based principles and values.
When the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his classic “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” essay in the spring of 1963, he gave the Christian Church – and the world community – a classic theological and apologetic treatise on both the nature and privilege of civil disobedience from a Judeo-Christian perspective.
Pastor King marshaled Old Testament narrative, Greek history, Biblical Scripture, the Patristic Church Fathers and the American literary tradition to show that all positive or man-made law must – to borrow a phrase from both Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas – be rooted in the “transcendent eternal law” (a natural law construct) if it is to be both binding and valid.
Reverend. King did not engage in civil disobedience for the sake of causing social disturbance. When he addressed the evils of segregation, racism, poverty, and militarism he did so with the passion of an Old Testament prophet, the heart of a Christian Church pastor and the mind of a brilliant theological scholar.
Our country was transformed from a nation where “institutional racism” was too often the norm to a place where the ideals of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness have found greater expression.
We all need to be thankful that in the scheme of Divine Providence that men like Pastor Martin Luther King, Jr., President Ronald Reagan, and the founder of Prison Fellowship Mr. Charles “Chuck” Colson all utilized their great oratory gifts in a responsible manner.
Finally, Pastor Martin Luther King, Jr. left us with his unshakeable commitment to nonviolent social change. This may be his greatest legacy to us.
Dr. King and his associates took violence off of the table as a means to making reforms within American society; they rejected the evil notion that “the ends justify the means.”
To quote Saint Augustine, Pastor King and his friends sought to bring about “The Beloved Community” in American life and in the broader world community.
Pastor Martin Luther King, Jr. – “Happy Birthday!”
We are all better off because of your life and the legacy that you bequeathed to us.
Update DTG: Pastor Kelly note about King’s Orthodox Christianity is one of those inconvenient truths that a lot of people on the left tend to ignore. If he appeared today sprouting that same Orthodox Christianity he would be considered a person spouting “hate speech” by the very people pol that profit off his legacy today.