Martin Luther King Jr. on being 38 years old
Today I turn 38. I was stumbling around the internet, looking for things that famous people had achieved by the age 38, and found this great quote from Martin Luther King Jr. from his 1968 sermon entitled, “But if Not”. This year, I wonder how relevant these words will be for me.
“And I say to you this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.
You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.
Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. You died when you refused to stand up for right, you died when you refused to stand up for truth, you died when you refused to stand up for justice.”
Almost exactly 5 months after preaching these words, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed.
Today, as I celebrate my 38th birthday, may I be inspired by his resolve.