On April 16th, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" was published and soon became the manifesto of the civil rights movement.
Dr. King did not pick up his pen and react to hate filled racists. Instead, he found any scrap of paper that he could write on and responded to the passive pleas of white clergy, "Isn't there another way around this, a more subtle and patient way? Can't you just wait, Dr. King?" Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" bellows out a resounding, "No "
Over the half century that has elapsed since the publication of "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," much has transpired and progress has been made. Old laws have been eradicated, and new ones have taken their place- laws meant to level the playing field. Yet for all of our progress, the passive racism that existed in the anxious cries for patience among the southern clergy of King's era persists today. Long gone are the burning crosses, biting police dogs and angry mobs; in its place we find passivity, cynicism and avoidance.
In God's sovereignty, voices from today's church have emerged declaring that we can no longer wait. These diverse voices are grateful for the laws that the civil rights movement were able to change, but also acknowledge that while the movement could change laws, it could never change hearts. Only the cross and empty tomb of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can do that.
"Letters to a Birmingham Jail" is a collection of essays written by men of various ethnicities and ages, yet all are committed to the centrality of the gospel, nudging us to pursue Christ exalting diversity. Had these men written King in 1963, history would have been robbed of King's manifesto. Instead of telling him to take his time, he would have been urged on to fight the good fight.
The gospel demands justice in all its forms - spiritual and physical. This was a truth that Dr. King fought and gave his life for, and this is a truth that these modern day "drum majors for justice" continue to beat.