This Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in honor of the famous pastor and civil rights activist who inspired a nation. While Martin Luther King gained immortality as a civil rights champion, his faith inspired his life and provided the reason for his hope that God would end segregation in America.
In honor of King’s bold declaration of his Christian faith and his crusade for civil rights, here are 12 inspiring quotes from an American prophet.
1. The purpose of life.
“I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.” — “Paul’s Letter to American Christians” November 4, 1956
2. Our nation is sick.
“The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding.” — “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” April 3, 1968
3. Ultimate citizenship.
“Although you live in the colony of time, your ultimate allegiance is to the empire of eternity. You have a dual citizenry. You live both in time and eternity; both in heaven and earth. Therefore, your ultimate allegiance is not to the government, not to the state, not to nation, not to any man-made institution. The Christian owes his ultimate allegiance to God, and if any earthly institution conflicts with God’s will it is your Christian duty to take a stand against it. You must never allow the transitory evanescent demands of man-made institutions to take precedence over the eternal demands of the Almighty God.” — “Paul’s Letter to American Christians” November 4, 1956
4. Ultimate hope in God’s promise.
“I believe firmly that we will get to the promised land of collective fulfillment. I still believe that right here in America we will reach the promised land of brotherhood. … And I believe it because somehow the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” — Sermon at Temple Israel of Hollywood, February 26, 1956
5. The power of God.
“The God whom we worship is not a weak and incompetent God. He is able to beat back gigantic waves of opposition and to bring low prodigious mountains of evil. The ringing testimony of the Christian faith is that God is able.” — “Our God is Able” January 1, 1956
6. Love’s redemptive power.
“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’ It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. … And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.” — “Loving Your Enemies” November 17, 1957
7. Only love can drive out hate.
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” — Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? 1967
8. Transformed nonconformists.
“By opening our lives to God in Christ we become new creatures. This experience, which Jesus spoke of as the new birth, is essential if we are to be transformed nonconformists and freed from the cold hardheartedness and self-righteousness so often characteristic of nonconformity. … Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit.” — “Transformed Nonconformist”
9. The dream.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; ‘and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.'” — “I Have a Dream” August 28, 1963
“Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus. On some positions cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” — “A Proper Sense of Priorities” February 6, 1968
11. The Cross.
“When I took up the cross, I recognized its meaning … it is not something that you wear. The cross is something that you bear and ultimately that you die on.” — King at a staff retreat in May 1967.
12. King’s Moses moment.
“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! … Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!” — “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” April 3, 1968 — the day before King’s assassination.