Today as I and many others celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I give thanks for the gift Dr. King continues to be for our country and our world. Dr. King believed in the value, the worth of all people. He cared for and was concerned for all people. He advocated for social, political and economic justice and called others to join him in this work of advocating for the least, the last, and the lost of this world.
Today we need to not only remember his legacy, we need to honor and continue his legacy. Today the world needs people who see the needs of others. The people of this world seek to be seen and known as persons who are indeed valuable, persons who have been gifted, persons who can make a positive difference in this world.
How we treat others makes a difference. How we speak of others makes a difference. Language is a gift that has power – a gift from God that is meant not to tear people down but to enable persons to make connections, to inspire, to motivate, to share ideas, to negotiate, to affirm, to forgive, and to heal. Words have power.
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, may we make a new covenant to examine the words we say and use to refer to other persons. May we covenant not to use our words to belch forth judgments and offensive statements that tear people down – may our words not add to this old form of air pollution. Instead, let us remember that Dr. King used words in ways that advocated for life, that gave hope, that inspired people to reach for their dreams, and let us covenant to do the same in this New Year.
“it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Matthew 15:11 NRSV
Sandra Steiner Ball
Resident Bishop, West Virginia Conference