This Monday we will celebrate the birthday of one of our Baptist Saints, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The profound and lasting impact that Rev. King has had on the Church, our nation, and this world is hard to overstate. Folks will gather in churches, at town halls, and at marches across our land to proclaim that the dream Rev. King held out has not yet fully been realized, but remains worthy of our collective best efforts.

In Galatians 3, the Apostle Paul is clear that all persons are children of God. The life and death of Jesus Christ brought about reconciliation between humanity and God and human beings one with another. In some of his most famous language, Paul says “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

One in Christ Jesus—it’s a beautiful thought, but I have to level with you—we’ve got work to do to get there. Just as prejudice is learned behavior, it must be unlearned. And that’s not easy. Sometimes the sin of racism is so subtle that we hardly recognize it.

For us as people of faith, this is an important discussion for us to have. The legacy of the American Church (particularly in the South, but not exclusively) is that we used the Bible to justify slavery and segregation. And lest we relegate all this to the past, let’s be clear—we (and I’m including myself) have still not yet purged all racism from our hearts.

Even so, we have an opportunity to be a model for our community and other churches of love and acceptance for all people. If we are able to do this, we will hear Christ’s call to be neighbors to one another—in the best sense of that word. In Jesus Christ, we are bound to one another as beloved sons and daughters of God. I believe it’s time we truly recognize that—and seek to live as if we believe it.

This is a tough blog post to write—partly because I feel as if I’m coming down hard on you (that’s not my intention) and partly because I realize I’m preaching to myself as much as anyone.

So I’ll ask you to join me in celebrating the life and witness of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through thoughtful reflection upon his ministry of reconciliation. And then let’s take another step—toward healing and wholeness among God’s children.