The final words of Martin Luther King
Fifty years ago today Martin Luther King Jr stepped into the pulpit at Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee to deliver one of his most important speeches.
It wasn’t only remarkable because of its content. But also because it would be his last.
Within twenty-four hours, Martin Luther King would be dead.
On the mountaintop
King's closing, almost prophetic, words are chilling:
‘And then I got into Memphis. And some began to … talk about … what would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers.
Well, I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter to me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.'
King didn’t fear what could happen to him because he had, ‘seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.’
He’d been to the mountaintop.
And, while a lot has changed in the US and the UK since, we still have a lot to learn from King's divine experience today.
The unfinished road
King’s concern wasn’t racism alone. As he put it that night, ‘the issue is injustice.'
And we still see injustice all around us every day.
Evictions from social housing to make way for high rise developments. Sexual abuse overlooked by management. Widespread online bullying out of the gaze of teachers.
In King’s words, the Christian response to injustice is ‘a kind of dangerous unselfishness'.
Like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus calls his followers to risk their own comfort to fight injustice.
So the next time we witness injustice, the question isn’t ‘If I stop to help this person, what will happen to me?'
Rather, in the words of King, it’s ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'