Copyright Estate of Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos via Brigitte Freed
50 years ago today, on August 28, 1963, more than 200,000 people from across the United States descended on Washington DC in the now historic March for Jobs and Freedom. The highlight of this event in our collective national memory was the impassioned address by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the inspiration that we have gleaned from his beautiful dream even to this day. Dr. King shared the vision of so many in his day, of a time when the artificial lines that divide us would be erased, and all men and all women would be recognized as the equal image bearers of the one true God.
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”
The early church, inaugurated by Christ and established by his disciples, may be the closest our world has ever come this seeing this dream as a reality. The Scriptures themselves testify to the day when all nations, tongues, and tribes will be gathered together under the banner of the kingdom of God. As disciples of Christ, we too see the kingdom Jesus established become a reality whenever and wherever we are fully submitted to his Lordship.
A portion of a Doré print of Peter sharing the Gospel with the household of Cornelius from Acts 10.
Sadly, the Church which had embraced the equality that both Jews & Gentiles had at the table in God’s kingdom soon lost that truth, and reverted to a worldly, fear-based ethnocentrism. Sadly, the Church that had learned of the intrinsic value shared by both men and women soon fell back on an oppressive, cultural patriarchal structure. Sadly, the Church which had shared earthly possessions in a pursuit of equity among brothers and sisters was soon corrupted by the love of money, and the status and power that accompany it.
Today is a good day to remember that the Body of Christ is always incomplete and impotent wherever earthly, cultural values trump the values of Jesus’ kingdom. Today is a good day to recommit ourselves to being a Body of believers that serve one another in sacrificial love, having the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus. Today is a good day to reaffirm the inherent, God-given worth and merit that we all share regardless of our gender. Today is a good day to resume our early brothers’ and sisters’ practice of finding dignity in ourselves and one another that isn’t tied up in positions or paychecks.
This is a real possibility, even for our sin-sick world. But it is only possible in Christ; it will only ever happen when the Church stands up and lives out her true calling, leading the way to freedom and equality in a world dominated by injustice and oppression. As the Apostle Paul shared in Ephesians 2:14-22:
“For [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
- Check out these newly released photos from the original March for Jobs and Freedom.
- Read the full text of Dr. King’s speech.
- Pray for racial reconciliation in our country and around the world.
- How can the Church lead the way in promoting equality?
- What has your experience in the Church been–good or bad–with regard to race?