Editor’s Note: Today, January 15, would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 90th birthday.
In the midst of his work to combat institutional racism within the United States, Martin Luther King Jr. relied heavily on principles taught in Scripture.
The wisdom and insights King gained as he helped lead the civil rights movement apply to us today, for injustice still exists among us in many forms and in many places.
Jesus once said, “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). King clearly hungered and thirsted for justice in the course of his efforts. His words can help us to embrace the same desire. Here are some of his most inspiring and challenging quotes:
“We are called to be people of conviction, not conformity; of moral nobility, not social respectability.”
“The hardhearted person lacks the capacity for genuine compassion … He gives dollar to a worthwhile charity, but he gives not of his spirit.”
On the story of the Good Samaritan
“I imagine that the first question the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’ The good Samaritan engaged in a dangerous altruism.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“Jesus is not an impractical idealist: he is the practical realist.”
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“The degree to which we are able to forgive determines the degree to which we are able to love our enemies.”
“We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity.”
On the Church
“How often the Church has been an echo rather than a voice.”
“Prayer is a marvelous and necessary supplement of our feeble efforts, but it is a dangerous substitute.”
“We must learn that to expect God to do everything while we do nothing is not faith but superstition.”
If a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable … Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”