Spend time today remembering Martin Luther King Jr. from his own words.

As we celebrate MLK Day, we invite you to take time today to remember this vital historical figure from his own words. Below you will find opportunities to watch, listen, and read Martin Luther King Jr.’s words.

Also included is a blog written by a church elder, Bill Fitzgerald, who grew up in California during the 1960s. We hope you use these resources to remember the importance of loving others and standing for justice, no matter the cost.

Click above to watch.

I Have A Dream
Watch Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech from Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963.

Click above to listen.

Paul’s Letter to American Christians
Listen to a sermon MLK Jr. preached on Nov. 4, 1956 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

Click above to read.

Letter from Birmingham Jail
Read this open letter MLK penned from a city jail cell encouraging people to stand up for justice.

One Church Elder’s Take on the Significance of Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By Bill Fitzgerald

I grew up in Los Angeles and Orange County, California during the ’60s and ’70s, and for reasons I can’t identify, I found that throughout my school-age years many of my better friends were Black. Even up through college, it seemed that my friend group always included people of color. I don’t write this to imply that I am special or different in any way from any other white male, but simply to make the point that I have always seemed to be around people who didn’t look like me. Like many of us, my friends influenced who I was and who I became. I feel fortunate to have experienced those friendships, to have seen a different culture, to have been around the parents of my Black friends, and to have experienced the different interactions of those families, different at least from the way my parents interacted with me.

Looking back at those times, it’s interesting to me that I don’t recall seeing a lot of racist behavior. I know there were differences between my Black friends and the predominately white community we lived in. I knew that not everyone else in our schools and our neighborhoods felt as comfortable being around my Black friends as I did, but at the time, it just never seemed to be a big deal.

As I got older, I began to see more of the tension between Black people and white people. I saw discrimination and inequity: the differences in opportunity, the loss of hope, the cruelty, and the lack of respect for people of color from their fellow man. I felt the tension and struggled to understand it. I lived through the time of the civil rights era, through the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and I tried to justify things in my mind by telling myself that I was not a part of any of this racism and inequality. How could I be a part of that in any way? I had grown up with so many people of color that I was exempt from being complicit in placing people of color into a group of second class citizens, a people somehow less deserving than the “privileged” white people. Even as I reached retirement age, my understanding of the issues surrounding racial inequality was just never something I could grasp or fully understand. But through all of this, something called out to me. I felt called to do something, to make a difference.

Then in 2018, a group of about 13 of us from our church traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to attend the MLK50 conference to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death. I joined the group because I felt a deep longing to understand what I was missing and to identify something concrete that I could do to make a difference. One of the key speakers on that first day of the conference was Charlie Dates from Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago. Before he left the stage, my eyes had been opened, and I began to see what God had wanted me to see.

As a white man, I realized that I live in a privileged world. I realized that I never really saw racism because I didn’t have to. I realized that as long as I continued to ignore the issue of racism, I was being complicit in allowing it to have a place in our society. As a follower of Christ, I have a responsibility to take a stand for my brothers and sisters of color and to somehow make right that which has been wrong since the first slaves arrived in America in 1619.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. showed us many things in his fight for the rights of people of color. One thing I have learned is that as a man of God I must follow the example of Christ and love my fellow man regardless of the color of their skin or their social or economic place in this world. In Dr. King’s letter from the Birmingham jail, he addressed the local religious leaders by stating clearly that the problem with these men of faith was that they had failed to live their lives according to the teaching of God’s Word. They failed to “lead with the gospel.” I realized that I was failing just like they were.

Dr. King went on in his letter to respond to the accusation that he was an extremist. He wrote: “I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? – “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice? – “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? – “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” These are wonderful reminders of what God’s Word has set out for us to do, the kind of lives we should live. Unfortunately, I know that we continue to fail in our obedience to these directives.

Martin Luther King, Jr., holds significance to me because he reminds me that this world, filled with racial inequality and prejudice, is not the world that God created. As believers in Christ, we simply must not stand by and allow it to continue. It is not okay for us to ignore the suffering of our brothers and sisters of color. We must stand up and protect our friends. We must lead with the gospel and make the sacrifices necessary to bring about change. Like Jesus, we must be extremist of love toward our friends of color.