Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day, and as we observed the life and legacy of Dr. King, it’s important to reflect on exactly what made his movement so successful and what led him to be able to make the biggest impact on civil rights in this country the 1950s and 1960s. The answer to that, I believe, is simple: Dr. King’s movement was built on non-violence, peace, restoration, and love. In short, the Baptist minister prospered in his efforts because he founded his methods on the biblical principles of humility and selflessness. King devoted his life to the pursuit of justice because his worldview was informed by Scripture and what the word of God taught him about the inherent value and worth of human life, regardless of ethnicity.
In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. published, Why We Can’t Wait, in which he outlined his plan to help heal the racial divide in America. Included in the book were Dr. King’s “Ten Commandments” by which every participant of the Birmingham protests was expected to abide. Below are these precepts. Although they were written specifically for his followers, the general principles are worthy of personal consideration and daily practice:
- Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
- Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation–not victory.
- Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
- Pray daily to be used of God in order that all men might be free.
- Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
- Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
- Seek to perform regular services for others and the world.
- Refrain from the violence of the fist, tongue, or heart.
- Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
- Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.