“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:10-14 NIV)
There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man.(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Today we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. His prophetic voice is one that continues to push us forward in our journey with Jesus. Every year I take time on this day to reread his Letter from the Birmingham Jail. More than anything else in Dr. King’s legacy this letter is addressed to those of us in a pastoral profession. Every year this letter is tough for me to read because I forget.
I forget how I have failed to stand up for the neglected.
I forget how well I have it compared to others.
I forget to act with mercy and justice.
I forget that I am an agent of transformation.
Dr. King’s voice reminds me most of John the Baptist. His persistence calling us back to the right way once more.
And I need to be reminded of what I should do.
What is John the Baptist and Martin Luther King, Jr. telling you to do?