But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! (NIV) Amos 5:24
What does your Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration look like? For years, I only saw it as a day off from work until I started attending the East End Baptist Church in a small town in Virginia. The churches in my area had celebrations, gatherings of the local NAACP chapters, grand reenactments of Dr. King’s speeches by tiny boys with booming voices; there was always something spectacular going on!
My first year attending these celebrations was at the urging of my new group of church friends. I attended again the next year because of the swell of pride I felt at the last gathering. Droves of brown-skinned people came together to herald the efforts of one who propelled many. It was and still is glorious! But there was something else too. The celebration helped to expose my son to a sense of pride in his skin that he’d never experienced before. The funny thing is he did not realize what was happening and still may not know the root of his pride. Looking back, I can see seeds being planted that are still blooming today. I believe that is a fulfillment of Dr. King’s dreams. Though not all the tendrils of his hopes have been realized, one has. Some African Americans born long after his departure feel deserving of freedom, justice, and equality in the skin they were born in.
“But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream” (Amos 5:24).
I see that happening with my son. The Hebrew word for justice, tzedakah, can mean “to lift from shame to honor.” Mishpat, the word for righteousness, can mean “to have a good eye or to be generous.” The one does not work without the other. Justice not given generously is no justice at all. Righteousness or generosity without just administration is one-sided. My son has literally been lifted from the shame of being a dark-skinned child and generously so. He now loves the skin he is in. It all started at a celebration for a man who understood the need for justice and righteousness to flow over all people and in every way.
Is that what the prophet Amos meant? I believe it was a big part of it. None of us can fully appreciate the other without first appreciating who God made us to be. If we truly love ourselves the way God does, the natural outcome would be to love others too. We couldn’t help but see the beauty in it all. And justice and righteousness would be unhindered and refreshing!
Friend, join me in praying that we all will be successful in teaching our children the principle Dr. King borrowed from Amos 5:24. May justice roll down on us all like a refreshing stream, unhindered and free.
Online Article: Teach Love and Compassion on MLK Day
Picture Books: I Am Enough by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo and All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier.
Want to do a deep dive? Check out Family Fire's article Become An Agent of Justice