FIRST-PERSON: Dr. King's mountaintop
EDITOR'S NOTE: J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.
DURHAM, N.C. (BP) -- Our Declaration of Independence put forth a lofty ideal about the equality of races, one of the most eloquent and profound any government had ever made: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Yet many of the framers would return home to their slaves.
Our country has always had high aspirations of equality, but we've never been able to achieve them. Not during the century of our birth, when imported African slaves were bought and sold as subhuman property. Not after the Civil War, when Jim Crow laws kept newly liberated African Americans from the full rights of citizenship. Not today, when there are still disparities between the black experience of America and the white experience.
Sometimes I get discouraged with our lack of progress. But when I listen to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I don't hear the voice of defeat or discouragement. I hear the voice of someone who has seen something -- something that, in God's power, is possible; something God wants to give.
"We've got some difficult days ahead," Dr. King said. "But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land."
The mountaintop is where we see the world as God meant it to be, the world that Jesus died to recreate. Multi-racial harmony is a preview of God's eternal Kingdom, and God wants to display it first through His church. What our society has been unable to produce through its laws, God creates through the Gospel.
The Gospel teaches us that all men are created equal because they are each alike, made in the image of God. All races suffer from a common problem of sin and look toward a common hope in Jesus. The Gospel creates a new humanity, a redeemed race made up of all colors, in Christ's image. God created the races to display His glory like a multi-splendored diamond, and we ought to see that glory first reflected in the church.
Dr. King looked ahead and boldly declared that God's desire for racial harmony was possible. As we look to our future, would you join me in asking God to give us the courage to speak -- and live -- a similar word of counter-cultural, racially diverse, bold and unified faith?
I believe that God has appointed this moment in the world for the church to rise up and demonstrate the unity that the world searches for in vain. From that mountaintop we continue to dream; toward that promised land we continue to strive.