note: originally posted in January 2005 in the student newspaper at Wheaton College…
It’s Friday now, five days after the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, and like many of us, besides rejoicing that it’s only a four day week, you have not given his legacy a second thought. If upon reflecting on King and his legacy, you only naively rejoiced that his “dream” has been accomplished, but did not weep at the complacency of, We, the Church in carrying out the work that Dr. King, in Christ, called us to; to bring Justice for the poor and oppressed, you are deceived.
The more I have learned about Dr. King the more I am shocked and disappointed at the lack of attention we give to this great hero of the Christian faith. Wheaton College, a school founded by abolitionists should know well the importance of standing up against injustice and for freedom. Dr. King stood bold as a Christian against the injustice of his day and we need to be challenged by this modern prophet of Christ to do the same.
It’s a wonderful thing to see that every year hundreds of students at Wheaton participate in ministries through CSC and their churches. Many of the ministries involve working with youth anywhere from near by Carol Stream to the city of Chicago. These sorts of ministries are tangible ways many students find to share the love of Christ with others. But this alone is inefficient and insufficient. We must not forget King’s example and stand against the systems that are persisting
You might have heard this story before. There was a community that built a school on the edge of a cliff. Upon discovering that a number of students where injured seriously from falling off the cliff, the community decided to build a emergency room at the bottom of the cliff. Though this did help care for the situation, it was reactive toward the outcome of the problem and did not deal with the root. Why did they not build a fence?!
Dr. King stood against the injustice of the Jim Crow laws and the segregated education system because he was compelled by the love of Christ. We too must stand against those structural sins in our society. I challenge every student involved in ministries to youth to become aware of the structural evils that we are a part of in our society. When a child receives an unequal education simply due to their location in an impoverished neighborhood, this is a structural evil. When your attempt to explain to that child the victories of Brown vs. Board in desegregation are in vain because every child in his classroom is of similar complexion, this is a structural evil. King once said, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” Please deepen your understanding and act.
We are called to love our neighbor as ourself. This command requires far more then the few hours or minutes we tend to give it each day, indeed, in the words of King, “The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.”