This excerpt is from a sermon preached by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama on November 6, 1956 (later published as “The Most Durable Power“):
Always be sure that you struggle with Christian methods and Christian weapons. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.In your struggle for justice, let your oppressor know that you are not attempting to defeat or humiliate him, or even to pay him back for injustices that he has heaped upon you. Let him know that you are merely seeking justice for him as well as yourself. Let him know that the festering sore of segregation debilitates the white man as well as the Negro. With this attitude, you will be able to keep your struggle on high Christian standards.
Many persons will realize the urgency of seeking to eradicate the evil of segregation. There will be many Negroes who will devote their lives to the cause of freedom. There will be many white persons of good will and strong moral sensitivity who will dare to take a stand for justice. Honesty impels me to admit that such a stand will require willingness to suffer and sacrifice. So, don’t despair if you are condemned and persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
Whenever you take a stand for truth and justice, you are liable to scorn. Often you will be called an impractical idealist or a dangerous radical. Sometimes it might mean going to jail. If such is the case you must honorably grace the jail with your presence. It might even mean physical death. But if physical death is the price that some must pay to free their children from a permanent life of psychological death, then nothing could be more Christian.I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain.
The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.I still believe that love is the most durable power in the world. Over the centuries men have sought to discover the highest good. This has been the chief quest of ethical philosophy. This was one of the big questions of Greek philosophy. The Epicureans and the Stoics sought to answer it; Plato and Aristotle sought to answer it. What is the summum bonum of life? I think I have discovered the highest good. It is love. This principle stands at the center of the cosmos. As John says, “God is love.” He who loves is a participant in the being of God. He who hates does not know God [1 Jn 4:8, 20].
Dr. King was a modern-day Moses, leading African Americans out of the bondage of segregation and injustice to a new day of civil rights and racial equality. While he has now become almost larger than life, like others God has used in Scripture and his history, Dr. King had his faults and failures. Nevertheless, his reverence for Scripture and love for God were his foundation. He also believed in the Founders, the Constitution, the Amendments and the rule of law. He was deeply burdened for his fellow blacks and other Americans, who, 100 years after the Civil War, despite the documents that promised them liberty, were still being abused and oppressed due to racism. Yet he held to his dream that “one day” his children “would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” King believed in non-violence, that violence was wrong and would never change our nation for the good. In his very last speech, King spoke of threats against his life: “I don’t know what will happen now… But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop… I would like to live a long life… But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So, I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” King was killed the next morning.
A Week of Reflection, Repentance — This week, Americans are observing three significant anniversaries. Each is an opportunity to remember, reflect, and measure our progress or decline from these historic benchmarks and to take time to repent personally and on behalf of our nation.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — President Ronald Reagan signed into law a measure making the third Monday in January a national holiday in Dr. King’s honor. This annual memorial calls us to remember the man, but also to consider the state of race relations in our land. Who can doubt that King’s leadership has led to huge advances in eradicating discrimination by law: the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, and 1964; the Voting Rights Act of 1965; the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (amended 1988); the Voting Rights Act of 1968 (amended 1970, 1975, 1982); the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987; the Civil Rights Act of 1991; and the Voting Rights Act of 2006. The states, too, have passed anti-discrimination laws. Race relations and the treatment of African Americans and other minorities have improved, but there remains work to be done. Laws can make a difference, but only the Gospel of Jesus Christ will cleanse men’s hearts of racism or other sins. One of the greatest challenges for the church today is for Christian leaders of every ethnicity to work together actively to overcome that evil, advocate for justice, and together to make the unity of John 17 and Psalm 133 a reality in our land.
The emergence of groups like Black Lives Matter, who exhibit a marked departure from the spirit, doctrine, and method of Martin Luther King, are troublesome. Even now, leftist billionaires are financing Antifa and other gangs to use violence to advance a political agenda that threatens the stability of our nation by exacerbating the racial divide.
- God, please raise up pastors across America with a burden for racial unity. May churches become the vessel through which you bring heart-level racial reconciliation to America. (Is 6:6-13; Eze 2:7-3:10; Ps 133: all; Rev 7:9, 13-14; Jn 17:20-23)
Religious Freedom Day 2018 — Yesterday, January 16, 2018, was Religious Freedom Day. FRC’s “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” radio show produced a special program before a live audience here at FRC headquarters in Washington, D.C. You can view the recorded one-hour event online here. Among Tony’s special guests were Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), former Congressman Frank Wolf, Dr. Alveda King, and The Radiance Foundation’s Ryan Bomberger. Tony highlighted recent accomplishments in favor of religious freedom and how those accomplishments will help provide antidotes for current and future challenges. Religious freedom is under persistent assault in America, a nation founded on religious liberty. FRC sees religious liberty as the top public policy matter at this time. Without religious liberty, Christians can be and are being limited, bound, and silenced. People with deeply held beliefs can be required to do things Scripture prohibits, or not do things Scripture commands. Of course, there are people all over the world who are being persecuted for their beliefs and desperately need America to regain its leadership in this arena. The church in America is the key. (Download a special Religious Liberty Day video by Dr. Kenyn Cureton; see The Presidential Proclamation; Congressional Resolution introduced by Montana Senator Steve Daines; read the Statute for Religious Freedom by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, for which the January 16th anniversary is observed; see George Mason’s 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, which is the foundation for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.)
- Like the patriot pastors who taught the people to stand up to the tyranny of Great Britain in the 18th century, may America’s pastors and churches stand up and prevail over the forces that seek to nullify religious liberty. (Lev 25:10; Is 61:1; Jer 43:15-17; Gal 5:1)
Anniversary of Roe v. Wade (Read “Ending the Scourge of Abortion in America” in the last edition of the Prayer Targets) — This 45th anniversary points to the legalization of abortion and the senseless, legalized murder of 60 million innocent babies to date. Pro-abortion groups celebrate the legalization of abortion by a judicial activist Supreme Court each year. The pro-life community, which has grown year by year since 1973, instead celebrates life, and the movement’s is having success in progressively moving America to become a strong, pro-life majority, especially among America’s young people. We also celebrate the amazing expansion of life-affirming legislation and restrictions on abortion, especially on the state level. But there remain intractable stumbling blocks to guaranteeing life to preborn children that must be removed: the reversal of Roe; the removal of taxpayer subsidies for abortion in Obamacare, and the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Serious efforts are underway to do all three. House Republicans have made significant strides in chipping away at abortion, but these efforts are often being stalled in the Senate. A House vote is expected Friday on the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. (See also March for Life 2018; National Memorial to the Preborn and their Mothers and Fathers; ProLifeCon.)
- May pastors and churches lead the fight in overturning the insidious policies that allow for the shedding of innocent blood in America and around the world. God, raise up armies to prevail in prayer for racial reconciliation, America’s recommitment to religious liberty, the continued advancement of pro-life policies, the repeal of anti-life policies, and the prompt repeal of Roe v. Wade. May God-sent biblical awakening bring only good public policy, but also change the hearts, attitudes, and behavior of Americans as they pertain to all of these matters. (Gen 9:1-7; Dt 5:17; 19:10; 21:9; Pr 6:16-19, esp v. 17; 24:10-12; Eph 6:10-20)
Thank you for praying over these critical issues!
Rev. Pierre Bynum
Chaplain & National Prayer Director
Family Research Council
801 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001