"I Have a Dream" and the Dream of Jesus

In a few days, our nation will memorialize the birthday and short life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He accomplished so much during his lifetime. From leading a national civil rights movement to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, we can all agree he was a man who challenged the status quo of his time and led our nation into conviction, which led to changes in our country’s laws.

Dr. King’s Dream

As time passes and we are distanced from events that occurred in the 1960's it may be easier to view them as historical events with less relevance to our present state of affairs. However, such an attitude would show our naivety and misreading of history.

In his famed “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King proclaimed, “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.”

As we look at our country today, could we say that justice is a reality in our country? Has injustice ceased to exist? Or does hatred still flow out of human hearts? I think we could all agree that injustice is still active and present. So, is Dr. King’s dream a fantasy world?

After watching several documentaries about the civil rights movement in the 1960s, reading biographies of Dr. King’s life, and reading the transcripts of several of his sermons, I asked myself: Did Jesus have a dream for His followers?

Jesus’ Prayer

In John 17, we find Jesus praying to God the Father:

And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (John 17:11 ESV)

This verse is part of a longer prayer but I believe it reveals the very heart and dream Jesus had for His followers. Jesus desired to see His followers experience and reflect the relationship He had with His Father - as well, we know, with the Holy Spirit. In the oneness found at the heart of the Trinity is where Jesus’ followers were to draw their identity.

Living the Dream

So what does Jesus' dream have to do with Dr. King's dream?

I believe that if we Christians are going to fight injustice (racial and otherwise) in the world, it will start with us being unified with each other. Where unity exists, justice reigns - because injustice is rooted in people's broken relationships with each other. Unity involves humility, love, working for the good of others... how could injustice exist in such an environment? When Christians are unified, these ingredients of justice will saturate our relationships - and then they can overflow to the world around us.

But on the other hand, how can disunified Christians possibly hope to fight for these things in the larger world? Think about it: If you and I can't get along with fellow believers, what hope is there for us to promote the ingredients of justice (like racial harmony, unselfishness, etc.) in the world? And why should the world listen to us, if we haven't first lived out these attributes with each other?

That doesn't mean we can't push for Dr. King's dream even while we pursue oneness with fellow believers. As Dr. King expressed, “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”

This sense of family we all hope for begins by living out Jesus’ prayer.


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