I’ve been reading through some of Martin Luther King’s speeches this morning, and reading this passage from “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”, I was shocked by how prophetic his words about his own coming death were. Reading through them, it felt like there was a Johannine parenthesis coming: “He said this to indicate the sort of death he was to die.”
Conspiracy theories abound, and I applaud those who are at work trying to bring more light to the convoluted events surrounding the death of Dr. King, especially with this year’s revelation that one of those closest to him was an FBI informant. Yet regardless of what is discovered there, there is no mistaking the fact that Dr. King was killed for the same reason that Jesus was: he spoke the truth about a corrupt society while, or rather by, bearing witness God’s beloved community which is dawning on us even today. Let us remember Dr. King by affirming with him once again that our “ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them.”
As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the “Vietcong” or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?