Ever since the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden (Gen.3), and then the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel and the scattering of these language groups throughout the earth (Gen. 11), people groups have been at war with and discriminating against other people groups, trying to set themselves up as the “superior” group. The history of the world is one of war and conflict and ethnic cleansing. We have examples of this in Scripture as well as in our history books and daily news broadcasts. When Esther (a Jewess) was queen to King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes) of Persia (modern-day Iran), she discovered a plot to annihilate her people. The book of Esther records the exciting story of how her cousin Mordecai (who had raised Esther) challenged her to take a stand for their people, saying, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Est. 4:14).
Others, like Adolph Hitler, have also tried to annihilate the Jews. And sadly, many who saw what was happening remained silent. God, of course, did not let His “Chosen People” be destroyed, but some six million Jews lost their lives during the horrendous “Jewish Holocaust.” Today we have many Arab nations who have made it clear they desire to push Israel into the sea and eliminate the Jewish race.
Throughout history we have had courageous individuals who have been willing to stand up for their convictions and against those who are persecuting certain people groups. Daniel, taken captive as a youth to Babylon during the time of King Nebuchadnezzar, remained faithful to Jehovah God and was rewarded by being thrown to the lions, but “God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths” and Daniel suffered no harm, for which the king was actually very relieved and pleased because he really liked Daniel and knew he was truly a man of God.
Many others have “dared to be Daniels.” Continuing to live faithfully for God in the midst of persecution, they have boldly taken a stand for their biblical convictions even at great cost to themselves. One such “Daniel,” and the one whose birthday we celebrate today, was Martin Luther King, Jr., born Jan. 15, 1929. He became a Baptist minister and activist and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights movement. In 1963, in the March on Washington, he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. He expounded American values to include the vision of a “color blind” society. In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. He was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004. “Martin Luther King. Jr. Day” was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986.
In one of King’s speeches he said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” He obviously didn’t remain silent about the things that really mattered to him! Neither did Queen Esther. Neither did Daniel nor untold others who have stood up for the needs of others and for the truths of God’s Word, especially the Gospel, the “good news” of Christ’s death on our behalf to pay the penalty of our sins. The Apostle Paul, who at one point had been persecuting Christians (followers of Jesus called at that time “The Way”) but then met the risen Christ while on his way to Damascus to arrest believers, was converted and became a missionary to the Gentiles that he had once despised, said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Gentile)” (Ro. 1:16). Paul knew first-hand the power of that Gospel to change lives and he began boldly proclaiming it to the Gentile world as well as to his fellow Jews (cf I Cor. 15:1-4). He ended up in prison for it on several occasions and ultimately lost his life at the hands of wicked Nero of Rome.
Peter and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, also began boldly sharing the message of the death and resurrection of Christ for sin and were called before the Jewish Council (the Sanhedrin) who forbade further preaching. We read the account in Acts 5:18-20: “And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.’” They couldn’t remain silent knowing people’s eternal lives depended on the message they had to share.
The same is still true. God has placed us here on purpose for a purpose and that is to boldly proclaim, by how we live and what we say, that same message of the Good News of the Gospel of Christ. We are here “For such a time as this” (Est. 4:14). Don’t forget M.L.K.’s statement: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”