Still, America is a very different nation now. Racial discrimination is prohibited by law. Statements of prejudice are now socially unthinkable and politically incorrect. Black America can now claim the nation's Secretary of State and the world's leading golfer. Poverty still holds many in its grip, but the majority of African-Americans are in the middle class. Nevertheless, much ground remains to be recovered.

Southern conservatives bear a special burden, especially as Christians. I was not yet four years old on August 28, 1963. I have no memory of hearing Dr. King deliver his famous address. A white boy raised in the South, I had not seen any black persons at close hand. I had seen black workers, field hands, and children, but all at a distance. I had no black friends, no black neighbors, and saw no black faces at school or at church. To the best of my knowledge, I attended segregated schools until the fifth grade.

Later, living in a major metropolitan area, I attended integrated middle high schools with hundreds of black students. I came to know black teenagers at school, work, Boy Scouts, and other activities. I considered several of these as friends, but I never really entered their lives. It now dawns on me that I have no idea where they may be living, or what they may be doing.

Now, I know many African-Americans as cherished friends and treasured colleagues. I cannot imagine a world in which this is not normal, nor can our children. But honesty compels me to admit that this is more because my black friends have entered my world, than that I have entered theirs.

Christians must begin with the affirmation that all human beings are equally created in the image of God. But we also realize that we are sinners, and sin is the fundamental problem on the issue of race. Sin is so interwoven in our lives and institutional structures that we often cannot even see it. The only real remedy for the problem of racial prejudice is the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ. His atonement for sin is the only cure, and the only real picture of true racial reconciliation is that found in Revelation 7:9-12, where we read of the redeemed people of God as "a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the Lamb." The Lamb will make us one.

There is much work to do. We struggle in a fallen world until Jesus comes. By God's grace, we know that real progress is possible and that we are accountable. The church must show the world that the new community of Jesus is called to demonstrate His glory in calling us together.

August 28, 1963 seems like a very long time ago. We still do not know what to do with Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a complex person, and the cracks in his personal character have become more evident over time. We admire his courage and the clarity of his conviction, even as we are troubled by his flirtations with liberal theology. We simply do not know what he may have done or how he would have led, had he not been assassinated in 1968. We cannot fully enter into the mind of any man--much less a man who died nearly four decades ago.

This much is clear. When Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke that day from the Lincoln Memorial, he demonstrated true moral courage and spoke as a prophet. His dream was the right dream. His dream must be our dream. Our response to that dream reveals the true content of our character.

 


R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to www.albertmohler.com. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to www.sbts.edu. Send feedback to mail@albertmohler.com. See also the most recent entries on Dr. Mohler's Blog.