Reflecting on Dr. King

January 17, 2011

I’m hoping today Americans will take time to reflect deeply on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I must confess that I knew very little of Dr. King growing up in the (largely) white suburbs of Chicago. Living in the Midwest, we strongly resisted racism. Our Christian faith pushed us to love everyone and see no such thing as color. My family always held all races in high regard and for that I’m deeply grateful.

Nevertheless, I lived in isolation from racial struggles. The only discussions on race consisted of assuming “they should just get over it,” and various levels of frustration on leaders like Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton. My images of Dr. King was an incomplete, if not unflattering portrait.

But in my adult years  I began to converse with African American believers, hearing their stories. I also began to read deeply of Dr. King and discovered the full picture of his great leadership. Perhaps the most profound insights I discovered were in a chapter on Dr. King in Phillip Yancey’s book Soul Survivor. He spoke of his upbringing in the deep south, a childhood spent in the seemingly conflicting worlds of evangelical Christianity and racial prejudice. His chapter on King is a must-read, if not the entire book.

I believe America has made great strides toward racial equality, but we will never achieve perfection, because we live in a fallen world. Racism is a sin as old as the Garden of Eden, for racism, at its core, takes its root in the fallen human heart. It is the fruit of the ultimate source of evil, the pride of man, which naturally asserts itself above the law of God.

America has made great strides in racial equality. The White House, which was once constructed by black slaves, is now the home of our first black President.  Before that we saw two black secretaries of state and other prominent leaders. Sports and other public spheres are now largely integrated. This is progress for which we should be proud. I believe we owe this to our largely Judeo-Christian heritage.

And yet beneath the surface, there is great distrust. My hope is that the Church leads the way. The cross of Jesus Christ is the great leveler, where people of all races come and find forgiveness and hope, a Savior who meets us in our brokenness.

Today, I hope everyday believers reflect on the leadership and sacrifice of Dr. King and make their own personal attempts to bridge the racial chasm with the supernatural love of Christ, shed abroad in their hearts by faith.

Additional Reading on Dr. King:

Chuck Colson – “Celebrating Dr. King and the Moral Authority of Law”

Russell Moore – “Racial Justice and the Goodness of God”

Joel Miller – “The Spiritual Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.”