I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and 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 upon you to stand 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 or shoot or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand.
Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety.
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.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From the sermon “But, If Not” delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church on November 5, 1967.