Born on January 15, 1929, Michael King, Jr carried the name of his father, a strong Baptist minister and was lovingly called, “Little Mike” for his young years. Rev. Michael King, Sr. joined a group of ministers on a 1934 trip to Germany as the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta, GA visiting life-changing sites and learning of the Great Reformer, Martin Luther.
The famed 16th Century Protestant Reform leader’s 95 Theses and recognition that the powerful Catholic denomination excluded average men and women, forever changed the Protestant faith. You see, Martin Luther believed and taught that salvation from God was a gift of grace through the love of His Son Jesus Christ, not works. Luther further proclaimed that man’s access to God was direct and for all, not just those with means, money or a merit awarded by an institution.
Returning to the US, Reverend King was so inspired by the life, devotion and change which resulted from one man’s acknowledgement of the truth and willingness to stand in the face of great hostilities that he had his and his son’s name changed.
Who could’ve known, other than God Himself, the significance of that name change.
Like the 16th Century Martin Luther, the 20th Century pastor and civic leader had a simple yet profound message: men and women, regardless of color, ethnicity and heritage possess God-given rights which transcend the enumeration of any manmade organization or establishment. Made plain, all men and women have rights as those made in God’s Image that no man, government, act of hate, stereotype, or culture may take away or award.
Believers in God find these truths in the same place Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr found them–in God’s Word. From Genesis, the Bible says our identify and image is from God Himself. In Galatians, the Bible says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” describing a united humanity as it exists in faith in Christ, not divided by culture.
If you’ve never heard the teachings of Pastor King, honor his memory by making the time to listen to his renowned “Drum Major Instinct” sermon delivered on February 4, 1968, just 60 days prior to his assassination. Dr. King imagined his own funeral, hoping, “I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.”
It’s also from this sermon, Dr. King’s observation is made that, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”
As the third Monday of January comes and goes, observe the life of the iconic leader, not through a lens looking for perfection as a person or a powerful political partisan. Instead, hear his courageous voice speaking of equality in the humanity as created by God and our duty to serve.
Dr. King still speaks in 2023.