When the bus driver asked Rosa Parks to give up her seat, and she refused, it wasn’t because she was worn out from a hard day’s work, though she was. And it wasn’t because she was old. She was only 42.

When the bus driver said he would call the police if she didn’t move, Rosa parks responded, “You may do that.” She was already actively involved in the movement to ensure equal rights for all people but on this day, she knew it was time to take a stand, by not standing.

“I instantly felt God give me the strength to endure whatever would happen next… God’s peace flooded my soul and my fear melted away.” Rosa had recently heard a message from Acts 5 and put the principle “we must obey God rather than man” into action. She knew all God’s children were valuable, and that whoever put their faith in Him was free in Christ. The oppressive segregation laws were wrong in her Heavenly Father’s eyes.

Rosa Parks’ simple, non-violent act of disobedience sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted 381 days and ended with the Supreme Court’s decision that racial segregation was unconstitutional. Things slowly began to change as the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum.

But Rosa Parks’ story doesn’t begin there. Her story begins with her childhood and her deeply rooted faith. She credits her grandparents for fueling her abiding faith in God.

Rosa told her biographer, Jeanne Theoharis, “Every day before supper and before we went to services on Sundays, my grandmother would read the Bible to me and my grandfather would pray. We even had devotions together before going to pick cotton in the fields.” Later in life, Rosa was actively involved with the African Methodist Episcopal Church as a deaconess. She usually carried her Bible with her. More importantly, she carried the teachings between its covers with her – teachings that empowered her to follow God’s call to help bring dignity and justice to those who were oppressed.         

Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus. She did end up spending time in jail. There’s no doubt in my mind, she felt the same way Joseph did about the time he spent imprisoned in Egypt. It was a small price to pay for the good of so many others. We are still benefitting, as individuals and a society, from her bold act stemming from deeply-rooted biblical convictions.

Her commitment to securing true liberty for all did not go unnoticed. In 1996, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. When she passed away in 2005, at the age of 92, Rosa Parks was bestowed a rare honor. She became one of only three private citizens to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.

“So whoever knows the right thing to do, and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” 

James 4:17