He Had a Dream
As you probably assumed, today’s title comes from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech in August of 1968 famously titled “I Have a Dream”. Was this just Martin Luther King’s dream or was it a dream implanted in his heart by someone else? If you want to find out what I believe and what it means for us, keep reading.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal’ “, said Martin Luther King from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. This is one of many lines uttered by Martin Luther King on August 28, 1963 about one of God’s foundational truths- all people are created equal. In the interest of full disclosure, Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of my heroes and, through his words, has profoundly affected the way I see the world. With that said, I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that his dream changed the trajectory of a nation and possibly the world. But was his dream something he came up with as a result of the inequalities surrounding him or was it put in him by a great God who used Martin Luther King to communicate His heart? If it was written on his heart by God, might it be written on our hearts as well? Is it possible that Martin Luther King wasn’t asking people to become someone they weren’t, but to become more like the person God created them to be?
In Luke 10 I believe Jesus addresses the same questions. As you may recall, Luke 10 contains “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” in which an expert in the law asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ answer to the expert in the law is to, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27 NIV 1984). Apparently the expert in the law wanted Jesus to be a little more specific because he asked him to explain who his neighbor actually was. This question, which the expert in the law would have assumed the answer to be “your Jewish brothers and sisters” or something of that sort, leads to a story that communicates the essence of God’s heart. You will have to go to Luke 10 to read the parable in its entirety, but in it Jesus speaks of an unidentifiable man in a ditch and the reaction of passers-by. The man in the ditch, put there and unidentifiable because of a group of robbers, would have been seen as unclean by many in Jesus’ day and potentially less than a person because of his state and the inability to determine his origin. With that in mind, the avoidance of the man by the priest and Levite probably wouldn’t have been uncommon. The next person in Jesus’ masterfully crafted story would have been a complete surprise. Picking up in verse 33 of Luke 10, “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine. The he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him” (Luke 10:33-34 NIV 1984). Not only would it have been a surprise to the listeners that the traveler was willing to help the man in the ditch, but it would have been even more of a shock that the savior in the story was a Samaritan, someone who was seen as a second class citizen in those days. The level of uneasiness created by Jesus’ story is revealed by the expert in the law’s answer- “The one who had mercy on him”. It appears that saying the Samaritan had acted as the neighbor and done what was right in the eyes of the Lord was too much for the expert in the law.
A lot can be gleaned from this parable, but I believe at its core, it speaks to the question of who was created equal by God- everyone created in the image of God, which is….everyone. Not only does Jesus tell all of those who were listening, and us for that matter, that the guy in the ditch is just like them and maybe even could be them, but also that no one is a second class citizen in the Kingdom of God, the only kingdom that really matters in the end. By using a Samaritan and making him the savior figure in the story, Jesus levels the playing field and says all were created in the image of God and all were created to love people the way God does, and ultimately, to be in relationship with their Creator.
I believe this means Martin Luther King wasn’t just communicating what was on his heart, but was communicating truths about the way things were created to be, the way they ought to be. In reading the text of “I Have a Dream” or “The Letters from a Birmingham Jail”, I believe we can see the heart of God communicated through the heart of Martin Luther King, Jr. The courage and peace Martin Luther King had is something we can all learn from and strive to emulate. This heart, however, isn’t something that should be exclusive to Martin Luther King or others like him. As Christ Followers or even just fellow bearers of the image of God, we are called to see people as God does, equal in worth, no matter how different they are from us. When we start living this way, I believe real change will follow. When where you were born, who you were born to, your socioeconomic status, the color of your skin and whatever else we use as fictitious barriers no longer matter, the future will be different. You see, if we begin treating people as equals they too will see themselves as equals and the belief that “things will never get better” will fade away. One of the greatest limiting factors to something changing is a belief that this is the way it is and, therefore, the way it always will be. One of the biggest perpetuators of this belief is the reinforcement by society and the people who live it in that there is inherent inequality. While doing away with this is certainly a big task, we can begin the process by changing the way we live and treat people. If we as Christ Followers can begin to love and treat people as equals in our eyes and the eyes of God, I believe we will change the world. It is this belief that led me to Nicaragua. Certainly the challenges here are great, but if we in the United States can build a society where the majority of people’s basic needs are met, so can the people of Nicaragua. I don’t come to Nicaragua as the “Great American”, but as an equal who God has called to be a part of showing His creations that they truly can do great things.
Over the past weekend, I had a neat opportunity to be a part of a group who exemplified this truth. Similar to the “Ironmen” discipleship group I have mentioned in past posts, Crossroads Community Church also has an “Irongirl” group. This group of women came to Nicaragua to live out what they had learned over the thirty weeks they spent together. Through health clinics, playing with kids, talking to people in the community and more, the Irongirls loved people as equals. Their willingness to hug, shake hands with and medically care for people who were very different from them expressed the heart of God and His love for His creations. Although their time here was short, I believe the impact of their attitude towards the people with whom they came in contact will make a lasting difference.
Thank you for having a dream Martin Luther King and thank you for giving it to him God. I hope and pray that we can make this dream a reality.
– James Belt