Challenging believers in Jesus to think and act based on Bible truth.

Think and Act 1.15.18 – Why I Think MLK Jr. Should Matter to White People

If you’ve not seen the move Race, it chronicles the experience of Jesse Owens’ rise to fame and his domination at the 1936 Olympic Games. In one intense scene, Owens attempts to tell the Ohio State track coach he will pull out of the games resulting from the suggestions of some in the black community.

The coach responds, incredulous. He boldly tells Owens in no uncertain terms he doesn’t care what black people think. Owens replies: “You don’t have to.”

That’s the approach many white people will take today toward remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. and will take toward the concept of racial reconciliation in our society. “We don’t have to.”

If you choose to look up the scene or watch the movie, know there is a bit of profanity.

Today, white friends, or anyone reading, let me encourage you to not take the easy way out. Let me suggest three reasons to do a little bit of lifting on this day and as you consider the way you live your lives.

1. A LOT has changed due to the influence of one amazing leader.

I am not going to comment on MLK’s questionable theology or moral decisions. Question marks stain many influential leaders in the past. I hold him up as a leader whose efforts left a legacy of change.

After our kids did their homework today on MLK (yes, I made them work together to come up with ten facts about MLK’s life), we asked them if they could imagine a society where schools, businesses, rest rooms, hotels, drinking fountains, etc. were divided along racial lines. They said they couldn’t.

The work and legacy of MLK brought amazing public change to our society and changed the way we think and act.

2. A LOT still needs to change.

I encourage you to listen. Not just today, but as a conscious choice. Listen to those who say things need to change. Ask yourself why they see it that why and what you can learn. Resist digging in your heels to reinforce your viewpoint, and for the sake of listening, listen.

I admit I don’t always understand. But here are a couple resources that will help you think:

The Witness: A Black Christian Collective . This website has content regarding current events and the church. I honestly don’t understand everything I hear or read, but I can encourage you to listen and think.

Just Mercy – by Bryan Stevenson. I have a copy if you’d like to borrow it. This book gives a great insight into a Christian lawyers work to un-do many injustices in our criminal “justice” system and helps us understand how systems can work against groups, classes, or races of people.

3. Social justice is not opposed to soul (salvation) justice.

Evangelical Christians care very deeply about someone’s relationship with God. This can be traced back through the ages, and really was one of the central issues in the Protestant Reformation in 1517.

But for a long time, many conservative churches have pitted social justice work against evangelism and spiritual growth. The Bible gives us many clues that the two are NOT mutually exclusive. For starters, how about “faith without works is dead”?

If you don’t like the theological legacy left by Dr. King, then don’t just oppose him on those grounds and take a pass at important historical and current issues. How about searching your (our) own theology and wondering about the balance between justice in our relationship with God and seeking justice in our world?

Think. What does King’s legacy mean to you? How does social justice link to Gospel justice?

Act. Pray. Research. Listen. Seek ways to display unity, justice, and reconciliation in our world that are consistent with the gospel and the commands of Scripture.


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