20 Quotes from MLK

Martin Luther King, by caboindex, Flickr

Photo Credit: Martin Luther King, by caboindex, Flickr

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and is another opportunity for intentional reflection on Dr. King’s vision of justice and racial reconciliation. In the United States we have a challenging history around racism. From Pre-Civil War slavery, to segregation under Jim Crow Laws, to the ongoing racial tensions felt in our day, it is important to remember from where we have come and where we still need to go.

As a means of remembering well today so we can move forward tomorrow, I offer 20 of my favorite Quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


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.” 


“Life’s most persistent and urgent questions is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”


“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”


“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”


“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”


“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”


“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”


“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”


“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”


“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.”


“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”


“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”


“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”


“The time is always right to do the right thing.”


“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'”


“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”


“I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”


As we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, we also want to celebrate his vision of justice and racial reconciliation. May we keep Dr. King’s dream alive in the year ahead as we play our part in working for justice and loving our neighbors.

Leadership Insights from the Book of James

Photo Credit: First edition King James Bible, 1611, by bookchen, Flickr

Photo Credit: First edition King James Bible, 1611, by bookchen, Flickr

The Book of James is a significant example of a church leader who longed to exert positive leadership influence at a distance. Through this early form of distance leadership in the form of a letter, James is wanting to communicate a vision for how followers of Christ are to live faithfully under God’s leadership within their diverse and global contexts. Noting his audience as the twelve tribes in the Dispersion, James communicates visionary direction, helps to align the people of God behind this vision, and seeks to motivate those who are struggling in various ways. Here are a couple themes that stand out in reading James’ letter.

Rightfully Orienting Ourselves before God

While most leadership books do not begin with a discussion of rightfully orienting ourselves before God, James’ letter does communicate this near the start of his letter. James notes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God” (1:5). As leaders, we must understand the source of the visionary direction we provide for followers and our communities. Although leaders gain visionary insight from many sources, the implication of James’ teaching is that God is to be sought out for wisdom when individuals (including leaders) lack wisdom. My viewing God as a source for “every good gift and perfect gift” (1:17), includes viewing God as a source for leadership wisdom when wisdom is lacking.

There are many times I face challenging decisions in leadership—times where I feel like the answer is not immediately clear and I “lack wisdom” related to the situation I’m facing. James’ reminds us that we do not need to be alone in these moments. I can invite the Lord’s guidance as I face decisions that impact the lives of followers and the lives of organizational members I desire to serve. I can, drawing on James’ advise, “ask God” in prayer for wisdom and insight, and ask for peace and clarity in the face of anxious organizational times and unclear organizational decisions.

Rightfully Orienting Ourselves toward One Another

James not only advises people toward rightfully orienting themselves toward God, but also rightfully orienting themselves toward one another. Some examples of this in James are (a) the call to not show favoritism or partiality (2:1), (b) erring on mercy over judgment (2:13), (c) recognizing that the people we work with and lead are made in the likeness and image of God, have great worth and value because of this, and therefore we should bless rather than curse those around us (3:9-10), (d) treating those who work for us fairly and equitably (5: 4), and (e) and caring for the suffering and those in need (5:13-16; 1:27).

Leaders who rightly orient themselves before God and toward others are in a good position to lead humbly (4:6-7) before God and others and recognize that they are not in the task of leadership and management alone. I desire this in my own life and leadership, and am thankful for perspective from sources like James.

What leadership insights do you see in the Book of James?