On this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday it is fitting that we rehearse why it is that Christians, of all people, should shun the evils of racial bigotry and work vigorously for racial reconciliation.
We are created in God's image and that image is being renewed.
Consider this excellent paragraph from Anthony Hoekema's important book, Created in God's Image:
... we must learn to know what the image of God is by looking at Jesus Christ. What must therefore be at the center of the image of God is not characteristics like the ability to reason or the ability to make decisions (important as such abilities may be for the proper functioning of the image of God), but rather that which was central in the life of Christ: love for God and love for man. If it is true that Christ perfectly images God, then the heart of the image of God must be love. For no man ever loved as Christ loved (p. 22).
As Christians we are to "put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator" (Col. 3:10). Therefore, love to God and neighbor should be increasingly visible in our lives. As the image of God in us is renewed, part of the beauty that people ought to see is harmony among racial groups in the Christian community. For in Christ "there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all" (Col. 3:11). In other words, we model in community the great truth that we have "an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people" (Rev. 14:6).
So as we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., let us not motivate one another toward racial reconciliation with mere social programs or legislative initiatives (as helpful as they can be) or even the historic inauguration of the first African-American President. Indeed, Martin Luther King's dream is not fulfilled in Barack Obama, but Jesus Christ.
Let us, therefore, look to Christ as the perfect image of God--and strive to be like Him. For in doing so we cannot help but love God and neighbor.