Tomorrow marks the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. As a result of the Civil Rights movement in the United States, laws banning discrimination were passed. There is no doubt that there are freedoms now that were unknown them. The apartheid that was in place in the south is a thing of the past. The Voting Rights Act banned discrimination in voting. Yes, things are better now.
And yet the sin of racism is rooted in the heart. Black people, or African Americans continue to be sinned against oftentimes in subtle ways by society. And that sin is not only in the hearts of White people. Some African Americans harbor hate in their hearts over the injustices of the past and present. It is always good if a nation seeks to address problems politically by setting laws to ban unjust behavior. But more is needed, indeed a change of the heart.
The gospel of King Jesus is a gospel of reconciliation. The walls due to sin between us and God, and between us and each other are broken down by the cross of Christ. This gospel is political in the sense that it is meant for society. But that society of change is found in the kingdom of God come in Jesus. So that we ought to see this reality in the church, in local churches. The church should lead the way in showing the world something better. How the church is to do this is debated among good Christians.
I would be among those who would want the church to be intentional in expressing a culture which includes all ethnicities, particularly Black people, since that is where the racial sin of our society has been present. Yes, we don’t have to keep reliving the past, nor should we forget the past, either. But we need to be a community as church in which the new society of Jesus is front and center. One marked by a love which crosses boundaries often divided by hate. The gospel is meant to change individuals and societies, but the change is always in Jesus and should be seen in the church. And as the light of the world and the salt of the earth, that change hopefully will impact societies at large, even as it did in the United States, some fifty years ago.
And so we need to face the sin of racism in our own hearts and go to the cross where we will find forgiveness, reconciliation and a change of heart. We need to keep working on this since in this life we don’t arrive, even as followers of Jesus. Some may overcome the sin of racism completely, but others may still prejudge those who are different than us. As followers of Jesus, we learn to follow together, seeing Jesus in every sister and brother of every ethnicity. And being a neighbor to all, together in and through Jesus.