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.