Today, we pause to celebrate and honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Just over fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took a stand against injustice. While history looks back on him fondly, his contemporaries regarded him with disdain and depicted him as a criminal even as he challenged systems that upheld racism and poverty.
The tension and division that we have seen spill over into the streets throughout the past year are reminiscent of the long, hot summer the year prior to King’s death. Last summer’s tensions forced our national dialogue to return to injustices from the past and consider the ways that they have improved, stayed the same or evolved.
As we scanned our Facebook feeds over the past year, we were quickly reminded of the sin that still permeates our world—its consequences and its legacy.
The discord in our nation has stemmed from an inability to listen to each other or to recognize and unite around our common humanity. It originates from the same greed that led God to scatter the people working to build the tower of Babel. The same greed that enabled people to dehumanize their fellow man and justify their enslavement may take different forms today, but it still persists.
As we reflect on the accomplishments of the civil rights movement, we recognize that we have not yet arrived at the fulfillment of King’s dream, and we reckon with just how far we have to go before we reach it. We celebrate the advancements we have made, but we also mourn the areas where injustice still pollutes our world. We grieve the disparities in our criminal justice system and how they reflect historic injustices. We mourn the fact that while Black people make up only 13.4% of the US population, they make up 38% of its prison population. And we grieve the reality that 1 in 3 Black men born in 2001 can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.
Yet we hold tightly to the dream King described with words from Isaiah 40 of the day when “every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.”
We dream of the day when Christ returns and the world experiences complete healing and restoration. But as we wait in eager expectation for that day, we have the opportunity now to bring heaven a little closer to earth.
Every day, we are given chances to build bridges by listening to each other, investing in relationships and pursuing unity. And that is what Crossroads strives to do.
As our vision statement says, “Crossroads envisions a world in which the Church answers God’s call to remember people who are incarcerated by cultivating Christ-centered relationships through which God transforms lives, prisons and churches throughout the world.”
We seek to build relationships across dividing lines in pursuit of the Kingdom—a place where Christ is our peace, having torn down every “dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14). Christ is glorified when we pursue unity of the Body, and each relationship built makes earth look a little more like heaven.
Since the Fall, the enemy has sown division among humanity, planting seeds of shame, greed and doubt. But through faith, as Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, “we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
With each letter we exchange, we are opening our hearts to someone else’s story and inviting them into ours. Each letter breaks down barriers and binds hearts together in deeper unity.
When we stop and listen to each other’s stories, love compels us to seek justice on behalf of those who have been oppressed. Because when one part of the Body hurts, we all hurt.
Love shifts our focus from division to unity. As King said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.”
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” – Colossians 3:12–14
You can seek the Kingdom by pursuing relationships across dividing lines. Consider becoming a mentor through Crossroads.