Martin Luther King, 'Selma,' and Racial Reconciliation in Christ

( [email protected] ) Jan 20, 2015 08:03 AM EST
In the wake of the chaos in Ferguson, “Selma” was a timely release. The film highlights the history of racism in America and the wounds which still plague society today.
Photo: RAAN

In the wake of the chaos in Ferguson, "Selma" was a timely release. The film highlights the history of racism in America and the wounds which still plague society today.

Set in Alabama in 1965, "Selma" highlights Martin Luther King, Jr.'s fight for equality, when peaceful demonstrations lead by King were met by brutal measures from both fellow citizens and Caucasian-dominated police squads. The social system which suppressed African Americans did not keep them from standing up for their rights as men made in the image of God, however, and the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Although it has been 50 years since the events took place in Selma, racial hostility remains in our nation. "Over 30 million people were born in the U.S. who are 10 years older and 5 years younger than I am. The vast majority of those are alive today," retired pastor and author John Piper writes - "The events of Selma are living memories for them. How many of them were racists 50 years ago? How many of them are still? Fifty years is not a long time."

The recent events in Ferguson and demonstrations all over the country prove Piper's case; there is still a real sense of racial divide in America. Just as the church played an integral role in the events of 1965, believers have the opportunity to preach a message of racial reconciliation in Christ.

Ephesians 2:14-16 says, "For He Himself is our peace, Who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility" (English Standard Version).

In essence, the Apostle Paul says that any racial superiority that the Jews may have felt for being God's chosen people was invalid; he was calling people to repentance and to racial reconciliation. In Christ, there is no black or white, no Gentile or Jew - Jesus has demolished racism with His cross and points His church forward to the beauty of diversity. Ephesians 2:18-22 continues:

"For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in Whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit."

Not only ought there be peace between different ethnic groups, Paul says, but also rich fellowship in the Spirit and a building up of the church. Christians should be the biggest proponents that one day, people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will glorify God together (see Revelation 5:9-10 and Revelation 7:9-10).

"When I think about the needs and sorrows and injustices of the world (thousands of peoples perishing unreached by the gospel, millions of babies killed in their mothers' wombs, global slavery and human trafficking, ethnic and racial hatreds around the world) the thought of an easy, comfortable, secure life of coasting to the end, feels overwhelmingly unattractive to me," writes Piper - "I pray that [Selma's] story of courage and sacrifice and conflicted righteousness will stir you and me to an unwavering commitment not to waste our lives."