Reflections on MLK Day
Today we are sure to see more than a few quotes by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. floating around on social media. MLK worked as a non-violent activist, known for his peaceful protests, sit-ins, and marches. King stood for justice and the dignity, value, and worth of all human beings, but especially African-Americans, who lived under the constant threat of racism and physical violence.
For King, remaining silent about the things that matter––equality, human dignity, and justice––was to be as guilty as those physically perpetuating racism and violence. He called all people, regardless of skin color, to use their voice, their vote, and their dollar to stand against the darkness of hate.
Recently, I’ve been reflecting more deeply on this particular quote.
“And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.” (Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution, M. L. King, Jr.
I have come to realize that not everything that pricks my emotions as injustice is actually a biblical injustice. This has pushed me to re-examine Scripture and develop a more nuanced position, one that is based directly on a conscience informed and shaped by Scripture. In the book of Joshua, we read, “Be strong and courageous…” (Josh. 1:9) In John, Jesus encourages His followers with these words, “In this world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Just a few chapters before he reminds them, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (John 14:23).
While I understand the spirit behind King’s statement and agree that there will come a time for decent people to take a stand against injustice–– a position that may not be popular or safe––responding to that call must also be in accordance with the Scripture, not my emotions.
Here are 3 justice issues that every true, born again Christian ought to be standing for:
1. Human dignity, value, and worth
All humans are created in God’s image. This is the philosophical ground for saying that all humans have equal dignity, value, and worth. In the eyes of God, no human has more worth than another. This is why Christians ought to stand for equal treatment under the law of all people, regardless of a person's ethnic heritage, sex, religious affiliation, or social class. This principle is reflected in God's eternal moral law. Just as He will judge all humans according to the same standards, He commands us to judge others fairly (Ex. 23:3).
Because racism is a sin of the heart, the potential for racism will always exist. The passage of Civil Rights laws doesn't automatically mean that all people are now treated equally. But it does provide some legal recourse when injustices happen. While we may not be where we were during the height of the Civil Rights era, there is work to be done to ensure that biblical justice prevails for all people. If you know that someone is being unfairly treated because of the color of their skin or their ethnic background, say something (Isa. 1:17).
2. Protection for the Unborn
Standing up for the rights of the most vulnerable is also a Scriptural mandate. While some may see the unborn as not fully human or disposable due to their status of viability, the reality is from the moment of conception, human life has begun. Yet, in recent years, our culture has become more concerned over plant rights and the protection of animals than it is the murder of an unborn child. If a plant, animal, or any other single-celled organism is valued as being alive, shouldn’t we contend that the cells growing inside a pregnant woman are valuable and worthy of living? May we as Christ-followers use our voice to stand against the genocide occurring against the unborn.
God created humans with the ability to govern themselves according to God’s law (Gen 1:27-30). Since the Fall of Adam, humans can govern themselves according to God’s law or their own sensibilities (Romans 1:18-32). God has also appointed parents to govern their children until they become of age and can do so responsibly for themselves.
Currently, our country in engaged in a rigorous debate about governance. Who rules what sphere of authority? The question of a parent’s right and responsibility of governance is being threatened. We see this issue being played out right now in public education: who decides what a child should learn? One opinion piece suggests that parents exchange children in the name of equity. Shifting the governance of children to teachers or other government authorities would be a gross injustice and go directly against the word of God. It elevates government to the place of God (e.g., the highest authority).
The entire planet is currently having a debate over the governance of our physical bodies when it comes to certain medical treatments. In fact, a new Rasmussen poll says that about 30% of Democrats believe that parents who don’t vaccinate their children should have their children removed from the home. The question Christians ought to be asking is: Who has God appointed to be in charge of personal medical decisions? Our friends at the Ezra Institute have posted a very thoughtful piece tackling this issue: “To be or not to be…Vaccinated.” At the very least, this public debate ought to cause every Christian parent to become conversant about the biblical basis for their God-given sovereignty.
Issues of justice are not limited to race or racial minorities. While it’s true that perfect justice will never be realized on this side of heaven, that doesn’t mean that Christians ought to adopt a posture of inertia. We must practice daily obedience to the Scriptures to treat image-bearers justly (in accordance with the standards set forth in Scripture), to not favor the rich or the poor, to speak out on behalf of those who are being marginalized, to assist those in need; regardless of color or ethnicity. And, this is a life habit that we ought to practice every day, not just virtue signal with memes on the third Monday of January.