Since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, his birthday on January 15 has been honored with speeches, sharing Dr. King’s values of the American Dream, equal opportunity, and that one day white and black children might be judged by “the content of their character . . . [and not] by the color of their skin.” How do we do justice to Dr. King’s commitment to social justice that involves (as it do for him) personal faith, the New Testament’s gospel of unconditional love, and the Old Testament prophetic insistence on righteous justice? “It is not enough for us to talk about love,” he told his followers. “There is another side called justice . . . . Standing beside love is always justice. Not only are we using the tools of persuasion––we’ve got to use the tools of coercion.”
The Bible contains many call stories, stories of ordinary people called to serve the purpose of God, including Moses, Samuel, David, Mary, and the disciples. For whatever reason, God chooses to further the Kingdom of Heaven through the lives of ordinary people––people called far beyond what they believed possible––Harriet Tubman, Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, Sojourner Truth, William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Marian Anderson, Rosa Parks, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Buffalo Soldiers, and countless unnamed people who went far beyond what they believed possible.
Explore any of the links tagged with the above individuals. What was the need that prompted their call? What were their qualifications? How were they chosen? What did God call them to do or proclaim? What injustice was going on in the world at the time? Then think about yourself: What are the injustices of our world that God is calling us to address today? How might your community be calling you to be a witness to speak and act upon these issues?
Exploring Injustice with Children and Youth
If you (or your children) are unfamiliar with any of the individuals noted above, check out some books from your public library. Talk about: How is the gospel message of love represented in the main character? What could you do differently because you read this book? Does this book remind you of others stories or incidences of injustice today?
- Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
- The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights by Carole Boston Weatherford
- Let My People Go by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack (middle school)
- If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen and Bryan Collier Rapport
- Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr. (high school)
- If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rose Parks by Faith Ringgold
- Rosa Parks: A Life by Douglas G. Brinkley (high school)
- Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas (high school)
- The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
- Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
- There are a series of books especially good for preschoolers under the Ordinary People Who Change the World series.
A Prayer for Faithful Witnesses
In peace let us pray to the Lord, saying: Lord have mercy.
For Martin our brother, for the faithful witness he gave. Lord have mercy.
For Martin’s advocacy for peace. Lord have mercy.
For Martin’s eloquent words that stirred the hearts of many. Lord have mercy .
For those on whose shoulders we stand: Martin, Absalom, Sojourner, Ruby, Rosa, Harriet. Lord have mercy.
For those who will stand on our shoulders. Lord have mercy.
We prayer for help as we do our part to treat others with dignity and respect. Lord have mercy.
Hear our prayers, O Lord. Amen.
This post is an adaptation of pieces taken from Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God in Winter edited by Sharon Ely Pearson (2018: Church Publishing) which includes intergenerational ideas for New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine’s Day, and Snow Days. If you’ve used this book, please be so kind to write a review on Amazon or GoodReads!