The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?
Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail
Yesterday we remembered the legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
But what legacy did we remember?
Most of the quotes proliferating our social media feeds were about love, light, and coming together. Being a preacher, there is no doubt that Dr. King said those things. However, what is far more telling about yesterday were all the quotes we did not see.
We, as a society, have largely sanitized the prophet from the paradigm we promote. We love to tote Dr. King to make ourselves look as though we care about all the things he died for. And yet…
He was murdered for standing against the status quo our society has fought so hard to sustain.
Like the Lord he served, he preached real justice, hard lessons, and stood actively against the systems that allow and promulgate oppression in all its forms. And he met the same death sentence for daring to speak truth to power.
So what legacy should we remember?
First, we should stop using Dr. King as our token social justice soothsayer. Second, we have to speak the truth about the real lessons he taught. Most importantly, we must not only hear those words, but actually listen. Listen to a point of understanding. And understand to a point of acting. Actively walking in his footsteps.
The road is long ahead of us and there are many things that stand in our own way. Including ourselves.
But I can tell you this for certain: if you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ and do not understand the importance of being radically against all hatred, oppression, systems of injustice, imperialism, greed, and dominating power, you need to reread the gospels.
And as you do, take time to read the Letter from the Birmingham jail alongside. It speaks to far more recent history of which you and I are still a part.
There is still much work to be done. And God is always looking for prophets brave enough to stand even when seemingly good people tell them to shut up. Could God be looking for you?