Deep in the recesses of my memory, I recall the events of April 4, 1968. I was just a young child, and I had no understanding of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr had done for me.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the scene of the crime at the Civil Rights museum in Memphis, TN. I was moved and I wanted to cry.
But I was also moved with great joy, thinking about the beauty of the land of my birth. I found myself thinking of the song I learned the following year when I started first grade (a song that Dr. King mentioned in his “I have a Dream” speech):
My country,’ tis of thee,
sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing;
land where my fathers died,
land of the pilgrims’ pride,
from every mountainside let freedom ring!
I grew up in an almost completely white environment, and I didn’t know anything about the needs or the situation of the African-American community. Yet, in time, my appreciation has grown. I would hate to be living with prejudice (certainly, we all have some sort of prejudice in our lives, but institutional prejudice is an abomination). And having lived much of the last fifteen years in another country, I value the land where Dr. King lived and died more than ever before!
While in Memphis, I also went by Graceland and considered the King of Rock and Roll, Mr. Elvis Presley.
What would my life have been like without Elvis? I love music and must say that my life has been very influenced by his kind of music. When I was a child, there were only two instruments in church: piano; and organ. Now, there are electric guitars, basses and drums. I wonder if worship would still consist of a hymnal and dueling keys of the piano and pump organ.
As a practicing Christian, I cannot imagine what life would be like without the salvation that I have through the death and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus. Whereas, today we remember Dr. King, and I have reminded us of the King of Rock and Roll, I don’t want to forget the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Jesus!
As his follower, I am reminded today of what another follower of his, the Apostle Paul, wrote about equality:
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all (Colossians 3:11).
And I know that followers of the King of kings have needed prophets from time to time, and I do believe that Dr. King was a prophet. For he reminded us of what we should not have forgotten or misunderstood:
“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
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.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr).”
I am the “son” of former slave owners. I grew up in Virginia, and while some from Texas might not agree, I am a Southerner. And I wonder, what would life be like for me, today, had there not been a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Where would I be without Dr. King?
I hope that I would not have been a bigot, but it is quite possible. Bigotry and the cross of Jesus the Messiah cannot work together, they must by nature be enemies. So, Dr. King was like a prophet, speaking healing to the land of my birth, preparing a better nation for me, and for each of us.
Oh how I wish that he had not been killed! Yet, how grateful I am that he lived and his message triumphed!
“Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)’”