January 16 is National Religious Freedom Day, a day to celebrate with gratitude one of the essential freedoms secured by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
January 17 is set aside as a day to remember the sanctity of life and pray against the sin of abortion. All life is sacred and should be valued; therefore, God’s people should pray for and labor for the unborn.
Today is Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a national holiday remembering one who believed in the sanctity of all life and who was grateful for the freedom to address the needs and problems of race in our nation.
Today, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, you will no doubt see your social media feeds filled with people sharing quotes from Dr. King’s speeches on hate and love, nonviolent action, and racial justice. Many people know Dr. King as the preeminent leader of the Civil Rights Movement. But, first and foremost, Dr. King was a reverend. He was a follower of Christ. He was the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. His belief in the dignity of black people was rooted in a Christian faith that believed all people are created with dignity and worth. His belief in nonviolent action was rooted in scripture that commands us to love our neighbor.
In a sermon focused on Matthew 5, Dr. King preached these words: “There is still a voice crying even this day, saying, ‘Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you. Pray for them that despitefully use you.’”
Dr. King concluded his famous “Drum Major Instinct” sermon with these words: “Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right or your left side, not for any selfish reason. I want to be on your right or your left side, not in terms of some political kingdom or ambition. But I just want to be there in love and in justice and in truth and in commitment to others, so that we can make of this old world a new world.”
Today, we are still waiting to make a new world, following Jesus’ example of love and justice and truth. We Christians can look to Martin Luther King, Jr. as someone who was motivated by Christian faith to change the world.
As a federal holiday, today is also set aside as a day of service, to honor MLK’s legacy. How can you serve today? What practical step can you take to love your neighbors? What small action can you take to make of this old world a new world?
I would encourage you today to pray this prayer, written by Dr. King:
Oh God, our gracious heavenly Father, we thank Thee for the inspiration of Jesus the Christ. And grant that we will love Thee with all of our hearts, souls, and minds, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves, even our enemy neighbors. And we ask Thee, Oh God, in these days of emotional tension, when the problems of the world are gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail, to be with us in our going out and our coming in, in our rising up and in our lying down, in our moments of joy and in our moments of sorrow, until the day when there shall be no sunset and no dawning. Amen.