The recent birthday celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. calls us as a community of believers to affirm the truth: “Justice may sometimes sleep, but it never dies.” In our lifetime, we have see his dream of justice for all suffer with some moments of insomnia, but each time the dream has awakened in time to live through the night.
Had he lived, he would have been 86 years old this year. In his 39 years on this earth, he reshaped the world for the better although he did not live to see his dream fully realized. A citizen, minister and civil rights leader, he rejected violence in all forms. Through his strategy of non-violence, he helped initiate a new understanding for peace and social injustice in the turbulent ‘60s. In the process he earned the Nobel Peace Prize and was named Time magazine’s Man of the Year for 1963.
In the last few years, like many other famous people who have died, we have heard about Dr. King’s “feet of clay.” The recent movie, Selma, portrays this in a powerful scene where Coretta Scott King confronts her husband over FBI-manufactured evidence of his adultery and forces him to admit that there were, indeed, other women in his life, although King claims to love only Coretta.
Whatever we believe about his life, it seems clear to me that while it may not be appropriate for us to emulate his life, or for that matter the life of any other human being, it does seem fitting for us to recognize that even with his flawed humanity, Dr. King made a positive impact on his world and the kingdom of God.
The beautiful honesty of the Bible on more than one occasion speaks of the shortcomings of its heroes. Its David was a murderer and an adulterer and one of history’s lousiest parents. Still on his good days, his achievements were so grand that God called him a man after his heart.
This is not to say we should be like David or even like Martin Luther King. But it does say something about God’s ability and willingness to mold even flawed clay. Thanks be to God!