Today I took the time to watch the full “I Have a Dream” speech by the famous Reverend Martin Luther King Junior on August 28, 1963. I had seen tidbits before and of course heard all of the most famous lines, but I felt it absolutely necessary that I listen to the speech in its entirety before speaking about it.
The speech starts with Dr. King saying, “I am happy to join with you today, in what will go down in history, as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” This opening sentence of the “I Have a Dream” speech got my attention, and brought me grief.
I believe that 55 years later, our country has yet to embrace the magnitude of “liberty and justice for all.” I’m saddened that perhaps August 23, 1963 is still the greatest demonstration of freedom in our nation. Here we are, 55 years later, and what has really changed?
“One hundred years later, the negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of a negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. 100 years later, the negro lives on a lonely island of poverty, in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity…” said Dr. King
As Christians, when we hear or see this injustice, what do we do? Do we stand idly by and wait for someone else to change things? Psalm 9:9 says, “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” We are to be like the Lord, or of the Lord, which means it is each and every one of our responsibilities to stand up for the oppressed.
Fifty-five years ago, Dr. King said, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time, to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice, to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time, to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
Now, it is our time to complete the work of our brother in Christ, Martin Luther King. As he said, “1963 is not an end, but a beginning.” This can start with you. Do you look at your fellow brother or sister in Christ differently because of their skin color? Do you treat them differently? If you do, God offers forgiveness for our sins. Prejudice and racism are sins that can be forgiven, if you repent.
Dr. King not only spoke about the need for change, he also instructed American citizens and the world how to go about the process of bringing change.
He said, “In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds, let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom, by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plain of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests, to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights, of meeting physical force with soul force.”
I can’t think of an instance where his words of wisdom shouldn’t or couldn’t be applied. “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom, by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” America today is a country full of bitterness and hatred. Can I say some of the bitterness or hatred is warranted? Absolutely. Cases of injustice where our country has failed groups of people are plenty. That is where we, all races and tribes and tongues are to rise above the bitterness and hatred. Rise above it by stopping it in our tracks if we witness it. Rise above it by refusing to participate in any form of talk of superiority where race is involved. Rise above the flawed and sinful nature of our world that so desperately needs the love of our Savior. No questions asked, just rise above it.
When the world fails us and people, as imperfect as we are, inevitably get it wrong, this is where we cannot fail to look to our Lord and savior who offers eternal freedom, peace and hope.
Dr. King said, “Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.” I share that dream with him. The dream that we would look past the color of our fellow man’s skin, and look to their soul and fight for their earthly and eternal freedom, just as the Lord fought for ours.