March 16 MLK Reflection

Today’s Quote from Dr. King:

In April of 1963, Dr. King was arrested while leading city wide protests in Birmingham, Alabama. While he was in jail, many of the white ministers in the city took out an ad in the newspaper calling King an “extremist” and saying his activities were “unwise and untimely.” King responded by writing his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” from which the excerpt below is taken.

“As I continued to think about the matter, I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love—’Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.’ Was not Amos an extremist for justice—’Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ—’I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.’ Was not Martin Luther an extremist—’Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God.’ Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist—’This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist—’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 extremist will we be? Will we be extremists for hate or extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?

“In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill, three men were crucified. We must not forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality and, thusly, fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness and thereby rose above his environment. So after all, maybe the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

Link to more:

During the middle of the Birmingham campaign, the tactics expanded to include teenagers and some younger children in the demonstrations and many were arrested. During the height of the arrests, Dr. King spoke at a mass meeting honoring the young people who had been arrested and this three and a half minute clip has highlights from that speech.

For Reflection and Prayer:

  • Do you sometimes think you need to be more extreme in pursuit of justice? In what ways? What would that look like in your life?
  • Pray that God will give you the wisdom to know when you need to act as “a creative extremist.”
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