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Martin Luther King's actions were influenced by his teachings

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT by Rev Andrew Barrie, minister of Pulteneytown and Thrumster Church

Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King

Sixty-six years ago today, there was an arrest that sparked one of the most famous parts of the civil rights movement in the States. Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to move seats on a segregated bus. Four days later, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, organised by Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. As a direct result of this boycott, just over a year later, buses in Montgomery were desegregated.

What was is it that made this movement so great?

It was not only effective in bringing injustice to light, but also seemed to find a way for the minority to show courage and for a positive solution to be found. Most amazingly, even though many boycotters were threatened with violence, this was all done in a peaceful manner.

Today it seems to me that the world is very divided in different but similar ways. Debates about rights and wrongs seem ever more entrenched and it seems we are in an impossible spiral of hurt, hate and self-righteousness.

Many debates are not discussions but shouting matches. Those in the wrong often sit comfortably, deaf to complaints. Those who claim victimhood or oppression are often not looking for justice and a way forward but to be the new oppressors.

What can we learn from the Montgomery Bus Boycotts?

Part of the history that is often forgotten is that “Dr King” was a Baptist Minister, and his leading of that movement was entirely influenced by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

In Jesus, he saw a different way to the world’s ways. Jesus said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus backed this up with entirely consistent actions – praying for those who crucified Him.

Christians understand Jesus' words and acts as more than just an example. This was God dying for enemies, to make justice for us, so that we who were his enemies might be welcomed as his friends, and made part of a new people shaped by his sacrificial love.

I see the dynamics of Christ’s way in the Montgomery Boycott. Those who refused to take the buses were the victims, yet they chose to walk miles to work. The act to bring justice cost them, but they did it to bring about a greater purpose.

The good news of the Christian faith is truly a different way. For me and many others, following Jesus and His different way brings a humbling, satisfying, restoring justice which can bring all kinds of people together, reshaping our lives now and gives us hope for an ultimate future when Christ brings his justice to light.

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