The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. 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 inter-related structure of reality.

Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

Today, as we honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., I’m reminded of the centrality of freedom to the human experience: nations fighting for independence, racial and religious groups struggling for just treatment, and individuals persevering to overcome slavery.

No matter the group or circumstance, humanity is tied together by our hope and desire to live free.  And injustice is most often the spark that ignites the struggle for true freedom.

We will reach our goal of freedom...because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America.

In that respect, you could say that justice and freedom are different sides of the same coin.  MLK certainly believed that to be true, and he made an extraordinary appeal in a letter he wrote while imprisoned in Birmingham stating, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

King’s assertion stretches us to take a closer look at our own lives.  Think with me for a moment – do you believe in the “interrelatedness of all communities” and the “inescapable network of mutuality” that ties us together?  If so, then what does that mean for us today?

It means that our struggle for freedom in this country hasn’t ended.  Even though slavery is illegal today, untold numbers of men, women and children are the victims of violent control, manipulation and exploitation.  Injustice of the darkest kind in our own backyard. If we truly believe that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, then we must stand with those who are not yet free.

It’s easy to struggle with where to start or how to hope in the face of such darkness. Yet King’s unbridled optimism inspires me.  From his prison cell he continued his letter.  “We will reach our goal of freedom…because the goal of America is freedom.  Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America.”
Together we can have the courage to fight injustice and to stand in solidarity with the oppressed because we know the end of the story is ultimately freedom, not slavery. As King also reminds us, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

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