Published with permission.

By: Charles “Chuck” Johnson, City Attorney of Alexandria, Louisiana

How many of you have ever taken the time to consider why the Lord gave you breath?

For what purpose did He smile upon you? Where exactly does your piece fit into the puzzle of life?

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who had a very unique understanding of his place in the world. He knew why God brought him here. The answer for Dr. King was simple but also profound: God enlisted him to be a living, breathing, walking, and talking messenger of His Divine Will, an earthen vessel tasked with forcing America to glance into a mirror; a mirror which would reflect an unsightly image of institutionalized bigotry and hatred inconsistent with the lofty ideals recited in the Constitution.

That Divine Will- the Will of the Father- is not always consistent with the will of men. Freedom, justice, and equality were Dr. King’s expressions of the Will of God- which America failed to embrace in any real sense before Dr. King lifted the mirror. Slavery, segregation, lynchings, war, holocausts, or any other form of oppression the mind can conjure are all expressions of the will of men.

The message of non-violent resistance which Dr. King communicated by hoisting that mirror was that you can spit on me.

Beat me.

Spray me with fire-hoses.

Unleash your dogs.

Imprison me.

Even fire the bullet which will take my life, but your likeness must nonetheless change.

I need not lift my hand in spite, curse, or fire a single shot at you, “America,”  to make you examine yourself and see the face of injustice.

It’s truly a beautiful thing.

One man used the moral force of his words to shake the conscience of a nation; all the while, he knew what fate awaited him.

The bullet which struck Dr. King’s body did not shatter the mirror. Instead, it galvanized the spirits of those who walk in the steps of the righteous. It gave hope to those who only knew hopelessness. It made hard hearts soften. It instilled in the minds of those with power that force and violence cannot silence the conscience. It broke the rusty chains and shackles from the souls of folks without the strength to contest the authority of the state. And it solved the puzzle America has grappled with since the birth of this nation.

Charles “Chuck” Johnson is the City Attorney for the City of Alexandria and a graduate of Southern University Law School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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