This time each year, we pause to honor the life and leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr.
We’ll celebrate his extraordinary courage and reminisce about his famous March on Washington where 250,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear his now-iconic “I have a dream!” speech.
But if we don’t listen carefully to the familiar words of this famous man—viewing them instead as historical soundbites—we’ll miss the reality that he still has important things to teach us about how to treat the marginalized and the oppressed, the abused and the exploited. His words are as true today as they were in the 1960s.
3 ways Dr. King’s life and legacy apply to orphans and vulnerable children—
1. He believed all people are equal.
He preached that every person is created equal and should be treated with equal kindness and respect.
In a powerful letter from a Birmingham jail, Dr. King described the stinging dart of segregation as “living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments … forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness.'”
Today, over 153 million children live as orphans around the world, and 438,000 children live in foster care here in the United States, moving from home to home. Each of these children deserve to be loved as sons and daughters. No child should ever feel like a “nobody,” and no child should ever be treated as one.
2. He refused to accept injustice.
In a sermon preached in Selma, Alabama, 35-year-old Dr. King said, “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice.”
Yet today, older kids struggle to find families who will love them. Sibling sets are separated. Children from hard places are labeled as “difficult” or “defiant.” Children here and around the world need someone to refuse to accept the injustice being done to them.
3. He understood that Christians should lead the way.
Over 2,000 verses in Scripture speak of seeking justice for the orphan, widow, impoverished, or oppressed. Christians—more than anyone else—should understand God’s heart for people in need and should lead by example to meet those needs while preserving the dignity of the distressed.
The Church should be the number one place where children from hard places are welcomed with open arms. And yet. We live in an age where many churches talk about caring for vulnerable children but don’t necessarily follow through with credible action.
Children need God’s people to care.
Dr. King famously said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?‘”
Every year, on the third Monday in January, our nation honors Martin Luther King, Jr. His family asks that his legacy be honored with a day of service rather than simply taking the day off. What better way to honor him this year than to do something to help children in need?
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