MLK and the Quest for Equality

Today is the day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Perhaps no other voice is more closely associated with the American civil rights movement than his.  His voice still resonates through his words long after his life was cut short.  Although he was far from perfect, his legacy and his voice still lives on.

Equality?

How equal are we really?

I have the privilege of teaching low-income, at-risk youth who are pursuing their GED.  For a variety of reasons they were unable to finish high school and this basic education credential is vital.

My classroom is very diverse.  Over the last three years I have had single moms of every race, Hispanic ex-gang members, students for whom English is a second language, African-American young men and women, a refugee from Burma, kids in and out of trouble with the law, and students that make you wonder why they dropped out of high school.

We don’t shy away from the difficult topics that these kids will face in life.  We talk about racial injustice and equality, Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, human trafficking, Boko Haram, Islamic extremists, minimum wage, and anything else you could imagine.

One of my favorite memories was with a young black man who was 17 years old.  We were joking in class one day and speaking about race.  This young man said:

Man, Mr. Barnett, I think you are black on the inside!

Even now, you may be uncomfortable reading this.   But to me, it reminded me that I was doing whatever it took to reach these kids.

This job is my mission field right now.

I am a white male in his mid-thirties who is a bold follower of Jesus Christ.  Yet I am somehow able to identify and be identifiable with all manner of a diverse younger generation.

Unfortunately this isn’t the norm

I look around, especially in the United States, and I don’t see this as the norm.  It seems like things are just as bad as they have always been.  The more we strive for equality the more elusive it seems.  I’m sure Martin Luther King would be disappointed in where we are and recognize that we have so much further to go.

We are all sinners in need of a Savior

When I think about our differences as people, I am reminded of our similarities.

On the inside we are not black or white, Hispanic or Asian, from the eastern hemisphere or the western hemisphere.

We are simply sinners in need of a Savior.  Although God created us to be a beautiful tapestry of skin colors, he sees us primarily in need of his grace and mercy.  He sees beyond our skin color to our soul’s condition.

We are new creations in Christ

When you come to the saving knowledge of Jesus, you become a new creation in Christ.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.

The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

2 Corinthians 5:17

Once we get to the point where we realize that we are new creations in Christ, then we can begin to really celebrate our differences by celebrating our similarities.  We can begin to see the beauty that God has created in this world by making us each unique and rejoicing that where it counts we are the same.

That is our relationship with Christ.

If you have never heard Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, you can listen to it here.

Although, it was birthed out of the civil rights movement and the injustices that people of color faced, at its core was the message of Christianity: that all men and women will only really be truly equal when they recognize what God has done for them and accept the free gift of eternal life by believing in his son, Jesus Christ.

Social justice and equality can never truly be achieved until Christians rise up and live as one body more interested in their similarities than their differences.