As the United States of America honors the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., I present a few texts from many of Dr. King's sermons and speeches that I have seen today.
Again and again we hear in his words the underlying themes of confidence in the dignity of human persons and love as a practical force for building up good in the world according to the will of God.
Truth worth dying for:
The spiritual human person, made for eternity:
Image of God:
"We thank thee, O God, for the spiritual nature of man. We are in nature but live above nature. Help us never to let anyone or any condition pull us so low as to cause us to hate. Give us the strength to love our enemies and to do good to those who despitefully use us and persecute us… Help us to realize that man was created to shine like stars and live on through all eternity" (excerpt from a prayer).
"The whole concept of the Imago Dei or the Image of God, is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected. This gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. We must never forget this. There are no gradations in the Image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God's keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God. One day we will learn that. We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man."
Truth worth dying for:
"Unless you have found something to live for that is more important to you than your own life, you will always be a slave. For all another man needs to do is threaten to take your life to get you to do his bidding. [But if you have found it,] even if they try to kill you, you develop the inner conviction that there are some things so precious, some things so eternally true that they are worth dying for."
Forgiveness and Love of Enemies:
"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. It is impossible even to begin the act of loving one’s enemies without the prior acceptance of the necessity, over and over again, of forgiving those who inflict evil and injury upon us."
Globalization, Technological Power, and Fraternal Love:
"The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood.
"Now it is true that the geographical oneness of this age has come into being to a large extent through modern man’s scientific ingenuity. Modern man through his scientific genius has been able to dwarf distance and place time in chains. And our jet planes have compressed into minutes distances that once took weeks and even months. All of this tells us that our world is a neighborhood.
"Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.
"We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.
"This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured."