As a foreigner, I am a latecomer to the appreciation for Martin Luther King Jr. that is celebrated in January each year. I have been aware of the name of the great man since I was a child. However, the far-reaching significance of all that Martin Luther King has stood for has not hit me until I began life in the United States.
For those of you who don’t know me well, I was a pastor of a black church in Bellwood for two years after graduating from Moody in 2000. I have a mixed-race family. My son is African-American Latino, and my daughter is Chinese. I have lived in Japan and Pakistan. In other countries I have been judged based on the colour of my skin rather than the content of my character, and I want a world where my children will be free from such judgement. Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader and spokesperson for a movement that had the bravery to stand in the face of contempt and offer non-violent resistance. When ugliness could have been met with ugliness, Martin Luther King crafted monumental words of beauty. When pent up frustration could have led to violence, Martin Luther King went out for a walk. He marched with 200,000 all the way to the seat of government and asked people to listen to his dream.
Fortunately for all of us, the strength of the moral truth won out. Attitudes and laws were changed and continue to do so. However, I am witness that there is much still to do. When my son was 5, I saw a large boy stand over him after my son blocked his shot in soccer. The other 5-year-old’s words were racially charged. I have seen members of my Bellwood congregation jailed and held under dubious circumstances. I have seen that we still have a long way to go.
Martin Luther King Jr. is quoted as saying, “If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.” To truly progress we do not lose our anchor in the ancient truths. If we worship progress and forget eternal truth, we become like ships losing their mooring blown on the seas and subject to the volatile tides of whimsical change. As a minister, MLK knew that there are sure moral absolutes to build upon. Immoral choices are unstable and need to be spiritually submitted to the righteousness of God. I believe that Moody Bible Institute is better positioned than most to bring sound spiritual insight to an age of progress. May we communicate in word and deed that in Christ ‘there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.’
However, where there is unity in the body of Christ, there is also diversity. God has created one body in many parts. So, with equity and compassion each member of the body must work toward unity while celebrating diversity. This reflects the reality of the triune Creator who created mankind in his image. As image bearers let us be humble. Let us honour Martin Luther King Jr. by remembering the cause that he gave his life for. Let his character point beyond himself to the greater Kingdom of God. May we bring God’s Kingdom with a lack of prejudice and embodiment of justice that is reflected on earth as it is in Heaven.
As usual, this is perfect. Thanks, Peter. Judy.
My grandma was born in Louisiana in 1940. She was African American and was governed by the suffocating Jim Crow Laws… she drank from the colored fountain and sat in the back of the bus. Her world was forcibly segregated and there was unwarranted violence all around her. Yet my grandma remained firm in her faith. Growing up she would always tell me stories of the hatred she endured and every MLK Jr. day we would go to her house and just listen to her talk. To this day, the things that I remember most vividly are not the individual stories, but the strange, calm passion in her voice and the tears of remembrance in her eyes. She was on fire for the Lord and at peace in the midst of her circumstances, yet she desired change for the sake of future generations.
Now, looking around me today, I desire the same (ESPECIALLY among the body of believers). We were created in the image of God– every human being. The Godhead is triune… three persons in one essence… perfectly representing Equality, Unity, AND Diversity. We were made for that. But sin has marred our imago Dei and has brought us to a place void of the balance of these three. We are living as mirrors, broken and shattered, reflecting only a portion of that which we were meant to reflect.
First, we have to admit that racism and disunity are still both major problems in our world today (including in the church). To do that, we have to begin to see everyone as equal in personhood and position… as image-bearers of the Creator. We must seek to understand, then be understood… willing to listen to those opinions and situations unlike our own. Ultimately, we have to love with the sacrificial, HUMBLE love of Christ if we ever hope to achieve racial reconciliation.