We remember the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. who, like his namesake many years before, proclaimed that all was not well. We can debate what place the Gospel has in social issues, but I suspect that such arguments flow from our flesh rather than the Spirit. The line between that which is Gospel and that which is social is a THIN line—if it exists at all.
The Gospel IS social! It is social in that its intent is to restore relationship with God, to establish community among believers, and to impact society as a whole.
The Gospel is holistic because our God is GREAT! He is not concerned with the spiritual alone but with the physical. THIS IS WHY WE WILL BE RESURRECTED, because the body matters, because the physical matters. We were not created immaterial beings but material beings and material beings we shall remain.
But, beyond this, read Amos. Read Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or ANY of the prophets and you are struck by God’s concern for justice. God is concerned for the poor. God’s message is a social one—we who live in community dare not live isolated lives.
Dr. King’s last public address was amazingly profound and remarkably prophetic. He said,
It’s all right to talk about “long white robes over yonder,” in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It’s all right to talk about “streets flowing with milk and honey,” but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.
He spoke of “a kind of dangerous unselfishness” that I think it tremendously Christian. It reflects Paul’s command that we “consider others better than” ourselves. That is a crazy idea that would radically affect every relationship were we only able to truly apply it. And then there is that Good Samaritan we so admire.
In his message Dr. King considered why the priest and Levite might have passed without stopping to help the man in the ditch. Yes, they may have wanted to stay pure, but King suggests a different reason. He wrote,
I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked — the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?
Dangerous unselfishness asks not about self but about the other, “What will happen to them.” Oh, it should scare you. It should shock you. It is absurd but not as absurd as the God of the universe subjecting himself to the humiliation of little people to save those same little people. That is our model. That is our goal.
I did not know Dr. King personally and I’m sure that, under a microscope, his warts would disgust me. And yet I admire him greatly for his commitment to the Gospel and his fearless march towards God’s call in his life. His message was prophetic because at the end speaks of the threat against his life from “some of our sick white brothers?” Then he concluded,
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!
He was shot the very next day.
I shed tears at the missed opportunity that left this nation void of a great leader and on the verge of civil war. I mourn the loss of opportunity for true dialogue and I rejoice that from those ashes came change. I rejoice because today is not as yesterday and still I pray tomorrow will be better. This I pray not because of MLK, not because of legislation, not because of my own wit, but because of a God who I concerned with “the least of these” and willing to die to see it through.
Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 5:22-23, Isaiah 10:1-2, Isaiah 11:2-4, Jeremiah 5:28, Ezekiel 18:12,
Ezekiel 22:29, Amos 2:7, Amos 5:11, Amos 5:12, Amos 8:4-6, Zechariah 7:10
 Martin Luther King, “I Have Been to the Mountain Top.”
 Philippians 2:3