Martin Luther King Jr’s Greatest Gift to Posterity

A few years back, musician Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot & Fiction Family) released a solo project, which included the track “Learning How to Die.”  The song includes this poignant refrain:

All along I thought / I was learning how to take / How to bend not how to break / How to live not how to cry / But really / I’ve been learning how to die / I’ve been learning how to die

Foreman’s reflections have the tenor of the best kind of mid-life crisis.  This isn’t the desperation of a 40-something realizing his wasted youth, with the resulting Porsche purchase.  This is the subtle dawning of a matured understanding, that a great secret to life has been revealed.

Indeed, it is a great secret to life, one that the Scriptures advocate from start to finish.  There is a pattern in both the Old Testament and the New Testament in which those things that are lasting in God’s Kingdom must pass through death.

Alas, everything dies in this world.  And it would be a fruitless and sad world if death had the final word.  But the hope of Scripture, the hope of our Creator is that He is faithful to resurrect the things that have died in His service.

Perhaps the earliest example we have is Abraham taking his promised son Isaac to the summit of Moriah (Gen 22).  Isaac is not literally killed by his father as a sacrifice to the Lord, but the reader gets the picture: Isaac was as good as dead.  (Incidentally, this is precisely the imagery Paul used in speaking of Abraham before he and Sarah conceived.  See Romans 4:19.)  Yet Isaac is delivered and out of his line comes the nation of Israel.

Of course, our best example is Christ himself, who was quite literally raised from death. Those who sacrifice themselves on the Lord’s behalf will find themselves vindicated by a grateful and faithful King.

And this is the thought that strikes me this Martin Luther King Day.  We could measure Dr. King’s legacy in any number of ways, not least in the symbolism inherent in the man who takes the oath of our nation’s highest office today.  These are worthy and appropriate measurements.

But I fear we miss the greatest gift of Rev. King’s life if we do not learn from the example he gave, that he had given himself to die for a cause that was on the heart of the Creator, expecting to somehow be vindicated by his God.  It’s that sort of work that lasts in this world.  It’s that sort of person that lives.


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