Free at Last!

America celebrates a national birthday on Monday. The honored man would have just turned 91, if not for an assassin’s bullet. The holiday is in his honor, and though millions across America will enjoy a free day, many will not realize the amazingly powerful affect this man made on our nation. 

Martin Luther King, Jr., Baptist minister and social rights activist during the turbulent 1950’s and 60’s, was born January 15, 1929, and was assassinated April 4, 1968. He was a prominent leader of the American civil rights movement. As head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he led peaceful protests around the United States, including the famous March on Washington DC, in 1963, where 250,000 people attended. Dr. King was a strong leader of nonviolent protests to bring pressure for needed changes to long-standing racial abuses. He was a leader in the civil rights movement, an organized effort by African-Americans to end racial discrimination and gain equal rights under the law. It began in the late 1940’s and culminated in the 1960’s. 

 On August 28, 1963, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made a 16-minute speech, that changed the course of history. His speech became the motivation for the subsequent adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Also, later in 1964 Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his dynamic leadership of the Civil Rights movement and steadfast commitment to achieving racial justice through nonviolent actions.

 It is difficult today for young people to realize the degrading and demeaning effect of racism that was widespread in those days. But you can hear the pain coming through Dr. King’s words: “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Dr. King continued—“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 quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” 

Recently, Dr. Charlie Dates, pastor of the Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois, and teacher at the Moody Bible Institute, preached: “We would have never had slavery in America if the Church of the Lord Jesus had stood up.” If God’s people would have stood on the truth of Scripture, and would have lived out true brotherly love, slavery could not have thrived in America. 

 Why is this so? Racial discrimination is morally and ethically wrong, and adamantly unchristian. What does God think of prejudice, having “respect of persons” and showing “partiality?”

First, in the context of the fact of sin and everyone’s need of salvation, Romans 2:11 reads, “there is no partiality with God.” Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Without exception—all are sinners; and all need the Savior.

Second, regarding human social order, Ephesians 6:9 reminds us that “there is no partiality with him” (God). During the first century up to 40% of the population were considered slaves. So, though slavery existed, God was impartial, unprejudiced toward all people. Paul urged both slaves and masters to seek first and foremost to please God from the heart.

 Third, God is impartial and unprejudiced in His dealings with people. In 1 Peter 1:17-19, we are reminded that answered prayer, judgment, and redemption are all in the hands of God. He is the One who “impartially judges according to each one’s work,” so you should “conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth” (verse 17). Regardless of race, nationality or culture, all believers are redeemed, “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (verse 19). Jesus only is the one way of salvation for all people (John 14:6).

Fourth, not only is God not prejudice, He expects His children and His churches to be impartial in their treatment of all people. James commanded, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism” (2:1). He commands Christians to fulfill the “royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (verse 8)—whomever that neighbor may be.

Fifth, God considers prejudice to be sin. James wrote: “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (2:9). To treat people with prejudice because of their social standing, wealth, position, nationality, culture or race is to sin against them and against God.

We pray Dr. King’s dream comes true:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal….’ This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.’”

Author: Larry E. Clements

Follower of Christ, fortunate to be husband to Pat, father of 5, grandfather of 12, writer, associate pastor of Pauline Baptist Church

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