It feels fitting to blog about the Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the actual Martin Luther King, Jr. day. I’m going to be honest and tell you I knew only 2 things about MLK up until last month. He fought for civil rights and he was assassinated. I don’t know how I went 22 years without learning more about this incredible man of God but it’s a little embarrassing. I’ll blame my Canadian heritage (MLK Jr. Day isn’t recognized here) and my age (the civil rights movement was before my time) — but wow, I want everyone to read this book.
“As a young man with most of my life ahead of me, I decided early to give my life to something eternal and absolute. Not to these little gods that are here today and gone tomorrow. But to God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Martin Luther King Jr. was an awe-inspiring leader. He had a dream to see equality among races. He had a bold vision and courage to lead. He was an organizer of people, who gave hope to thousands who felt hopeless. King refused to accept injustice and was willing to sacrifice his body to see justice come. I was fascinated by his study of fighting with “nonviolent resistance.” In Jesus’ teachings during the Sermon on the Mount, we learn to “turn the other cheek.” If someone asks us to walk a mile, we should walk two. It’s counter-cultural; the opposite of “give ‘em what they deserve!”
Can a “war” be won without violence and physical force? In his lifetime, Gandhi proved it to be possible. King, motivated by his own faith in Jesus and inspired by Gandhi’s example, set out to do the same. (Hence Gandhi’s portrait behind King on the front cover of this book.)
While reading through his autobiography, I was brought to tears at the steadfastness of King and his family. Waiting on a promise is painful. It wouldn’t be easy to “wait” during the fight on the front lines and it wouldn’t be easy to “wait” as his wife Coretta, or one of his three children. King’s movement was not a quick fight. The promise of justice wasn’t realized after one bus strike or one lunch-counter sit-in. No, for over 10 years, King (and hundreds of others) were in and out of prison fighting unjust laws. The loneliness King battled in jail is hard to comprehend. He was unsure of the future, missing his family, likely replaying physical threats against his person. In the midst of pain and uncertainty, King clung to hope.
“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.” (Excerpt from a speech in Memphis, TN, the day before King was shot.)
King had an eternal perspective. He wasn’t living for today. He was living for the impact his today would have on the tomorrows of others. It was an assurance in God’s plan, an unshakable faith in Jesus Christ, that sustained him through many trials.
“If I demonstrated unusual calm during the recent attempt on my life, it was certainly not due to any extraordinary powers that I possess. Rather, it was due to the power of God working through me. Throughout this struggle for racial justice I have constantly asked God to remove all bitterness from my heart and give me the strength and the courage to face any disaster that came my way. This constant prayer life and feeling of dependence on God have given me the feeling that I have divine companionship in the struggle. I know no other way to explain it. It is the fact that in the midst of external tension, God can give an inner peace.“
Oh, how I want to have a faith like King’s & to increasingly know the power of God working through me.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland… They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
Flabbergasted by this book. 5/5.
P.S. Read through King quotes on GoodReads. You’ll cry. (Maybe that’s just me.)
P.P.S. Judah Smith from the City Church is preaching through an awesome series on Heaven. If you want to explore what “living with an eternal perspective” looks like – I think you’ll find it helpful.