Yesterday was a national holiday celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As well as my memory serves me, this was the first year that I did something to celebrate. The day before, a friend invited me to read Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and discuss what we read together. Although he ended up getting sick, I still read the letter on my own and talked about racial injustice issues with another friend. I appreciate my friend encouraging me to honor the day and not just let it pass unnoticed.

Having only read an excerpt, I was surprised when I realized how long the letter is. King himself acknowledges this and says, “Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?”

While some of you may think that you don’t have the time to spend an hour reading a letter, I would venture to guess that you make time to watch a movie for two hours or a sporting event for three.  The reason we do not spend more time reading things of substance is not because we lack the time but the desire.

You can click here to read the complete text of the letter with added headings to help follow the flow of thought.

You can also use the player below to listen to King read the letter himself. In a few places he skips some lines (compared to the audio version) because this recording is of a slightly edited version. I recommending listening as you follow along.

May the truth of Dr. King’s letter by the power of the Holy Spirit grow us in love, courage, understanding, and wisdom in the Lord Jesus Christ as we live as Christians who have been given the ministry of reconciliation on an ethnically-diverse globe of proud people doing injustice to one another.