In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I plugged in my headphones at work and listened to a series of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s speeches as I typed away on my computer. As much as I have read/heard about this amazing man of God, I had never taken the time to truly listen to him speak. I stand here today even more impressed than I already was. I had always known how great his accomplishments were, but, after hearing him speak, I now have a true appreciation for the “why” behind Dr. King’s cause.
The famous “I Have a Dream” speech was excellent, but the speech that most influenced me was Martin Luther King Jr’s speech entitled “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”. Within this speech, Dr. King spoke of a traumatic event in his life, when a woman stabbed him in the chest in an attempt to kill him. He goes on to explain how the knife stopped so close to one of his main arteries, that had he simply sneezed he would have died.
Dr. King then tells of a young white girl who wrote him a letter after the incident that contained the words “I am glad that you didn’t sneeze.” After taking a few minutes to list out all of the amazing progress he had witnessed in the civil rights movement since that day, and how he was also glad that he hadn’t sneezed and died, Dr. King spoke to the true reality of the present danger he still lived in.
Martin Luther King Jr went on to say the following:
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m so happy tonight; I’m not worrying about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Here is a man who spent the better part of his life standing for freedom, and yet, his greatest desire was to do God’s will; even above staying alive. Here is a man who in one breath said things like, “let freedom ring”, and seconds later explained how that freedom would allow us to all join hands together as brothers and sisters and lift up praises to God. It is ever so similar to a story in the bible where a man named Moses steps in front of the king of Egypt and asks the king to release his Israelite brothers and sisters so that they may worship their God.
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If you google the definition of “freedom”, two different definitions will pop up at the top of the screen. One definition is the power to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was not pleading for this definition of freedom. No, he was pleading for the second definition of freedom that reads, the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. Notice how Dr. King did not say things like, “free my people so that they can go about their lives doing whatever they please without fear of repercussion.” In fact, his entire strategy was one of restraint, obedience and love.
In the same vein, Moses didn’t say, “let my people go so that they may be their own gods, and live unruly lives in the promised land doing whatever they wished whenever they felt like it”. Dr. King, like Moses, wanted his people free from worldly oppression, so that they had the best chance of living lives of true freedom; as humble, obedient slaves to God’s will.
As we all know, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s life was ended prematurely in an assassination, but we can ascertain from his words that he was probably not as troubled by this as the people he left behind. He had the opportunity before his death to explain to the world that if he were to die in that fashion, he would have died as a truly free man; a man who’s freedom was rooted in his unyielding slavery to Jesus Christ.
It is in light of Dr. King’s sacrifice that I ask you this question today.
Which of the two definitions of freedom most accurately describes your life? Have you settled for the cheap knock-off version of freedom that is based upon your ability to go about doing whatever you please, seeking to glorify yourself and maximize your pleasure in this life? Or have you chosen the freedom that leads to the abundant, fulfilling and joyous life that God intended for you?
The latter is the freedom that is based on obedience and voluntary slavery to the gospel of Christ. No matter what your answer, the good news is that it is never too late to change your course. It is never too late to stop, turn and bow your knee before God. He is gracious and merciful. In return for your obedience, He promises you true freedom that can be found no where else
And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ (1 Corinthians 7:22 NLT).
For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it (Matthew 16:25 NIV).