I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a day I don’t remember, but a day that’s had an impact on my life, and likely on yours, too.
I’ve been thinking about August 28th, 1963 – exactly fifty-one years ago tomorrow, in fact.
I was just two years old and living in West Covina.
Life is simple for a two-year-old, but 3,000 miles away in Washington D.C., a dramatic moment was underway. There, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was addressing over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. His now famous “I Have a Dream” speech was carried on television and radio all across the world.
Years later, I would study the speech in school and appreciate it for what it was – a clarion, bold call that helped to reshape America’s view on race and equality for the better.
I’ve been thinking about that speech because over five decades later, as evidenced in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere, we’re still a long way from realizing Dr. King’s dream.
When I see the heartbreaking headlines, the images of violence and the relentless parade of opportunists who want to exploit tragedy, I can’t help but contrast it all with Dr. King’s own words from that historic summer day:
“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred,” he stated. Instead, he urged, “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence … we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
Analysts have pointed out that the speech was full of scriptural allusions (Psalm 30:5, Isaiah 40:4-5, Amos 5:24). Dr. King was a devoted believer who saw the quest for equality through the lens of his Christian faith. He was burdened by the inequality he witnessed, of course, but he was never beaten down by it because he knew the Lord was holding him up.
And so is it any surprise that as our society and culture grows increasingly secular that racial tensions will continue to escalate and race relations deteriorate?
I remember when our boys were little, and they didn’t know the difference between a white child or a black child in church, on the playground or in school.
They didn’t see color – all they saw was a friend or a potential friend – made in God’s image and likeness.
That’s exactly how we should see all people – of every race, ethnicity and background.
We need to stop drawing physical distinctions and regain the vision of an innocent child, who sees things pure and true.
To be candid, I have grown weary, like many of you, I’m sure, of the warring, of the ignorance and the media reporting double standards that divides a community.
But there is a better way.
So, how do we get there, to a more colorblind society, where, to quote Dr. King, our children “…will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”?
For me, the pathway is a spiritual one. In fact, it’s simple and straightforward. We must put into practice the words and wisdom of Scripture starting with how we treat one another in the Body of Christ. Are we reflecting the Apostle Paul’s vision of the church where:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Are we living out the words of Jesus Himself, especially as they apply across racial lines?
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).
People often forget it was Christianity that transformed the world and ushered in so many of the principles that elevate culture, especially equality and the value of every human life. Prior to Jesus’ coming, equality was a foreign concept and a person’s value was rated and ranked by their status and perceived utility to society. It was Jesus who turned the wisdom of the world upside down then – and it’s only Jesus who can right the wrongs and heal the wounds of racial inequality.
I would like to hear from you. How do you see this issue, and what should we as the Body of Christ be doing to help repair the racial divides that still exist?