THE KING, Dr. King and me
I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there—all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb and heartily singing: “Salvation to our God on his Throne! Salvation to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10 MSG)
On March 30, 2007, I attended the dedication of the Racial Reconciliation Monument in Downtown Richmond with several of my fellow seminarians along with professors, pastors, police officers, politicians and many other people dedicated to racial reconciliation and multi-cultural unity. Recently, I returned to this site where many of us celebrated what we hoped would be a new chapter in healing our city’s segregated past. As Dr. John Kinney, the dean of our seminary pronounced during the dedication, “Today is not a day of conclusion. Today is a day of commitment.” Sadly, the reconciliation statue, like many of Richmond’s monuments in the news recently, had been defaced with vulgar graffiti. Undoubtedly anger continues to blind us to paths of reconciliation.
I’ve also been reflecting on the words, wisdom and wishes (aka dreams) of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as we find ourselves in the midst of yet another chapter of racial unrest in our country. I find myself wondering if this time will be any different. After my time in God’s Word and reflection on various Scripture, I’ve even added a few extra minutes during my quiet time to read quotes from a pithy booklet titled, The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Selected by Coretta Scott King). One of the tragic ironies of this Nobel Peace Prize laureate, whose legacy inspired the founding of The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, was that Dr. King’s death sparked a series of riots, looting and mass destruction in cities throughout America. As a result, it also sparked more hatred, more covert racism and more fanning the flames (often literally) of division. Sadly, I see history once again repeating itself, and although I hope and pray that this time there will truly be reform and reconciliation, history and Scripture points to and foretells otherwise. As a pastor, Christian and still a student of Theology, I see more prophesies than peace, more division than diplomacy.
To the non-believer this probably sounds pessimistic, but for the follower of Jesus Christ, it is an opportunistic time to share the one great thing that is unchanging, the love of Christ and eternal peace that comes with trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior. As Christians, we know there will come a time when racial reconciliation and multi-cultural unity is omnipresent, when division is destroyed and all hurt is healed. In John’s dream (aka Revelation), the Apostle describes that scene of perfect unity for the purpose of worshipping The King of Kings. I love the Message version which records John’s Revelation, Chapter 7, verses 9 and 10, “I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there—all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb and heartily singing: “Salvation to our God on his Throne! Salvation to the Lamb!”
In the meantime, we are to stand up for the marginalized by standing against racism. We, who have a voice, are called to cry out for the voiceless. We are called to make a difference in the lives of those who are different from us. When we read all men are created equal, we must insist that all means all. When we recite, “and liberty and justice for all,” we must also pledge to do our part in making that a reality for all.
On the day before he was assassinated, Dr. King rallied his followers with these words, “Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness, Let us stand with greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make a better nation…” Our King rallies us with much greater authority and thus we have an opportunity to make a better nation by sharing and exampling the love of Christ. More importantly, our King stands at the doors of Heaven and welcomes every tribe, every race, every language, and every lost sinner who repents and turns to Jesus. Our King is ready and He has readied us for this life and the next.