The Abolitionist Movement in the U.S. drew much of its energy and strength from the biblical faith of people like William Wilberforce, who campaigned for more than 30 years in the British Parliament to end the slave trade in England. Hundreds of years later, because of that same faith, Christians should continue to lead in undoing the destructive effects of four centuries of slavery and racial discrimination.
While slavery and Jim Crow laws have ended, U.S. society still lives with the painful, long-term effects of discrimination, which deprived many Americans the opportunity to flourish. America’s racist segregation throughout much of the 20th century oppressed African Americans, denying them economic opportunity and educational advancement. Decades of overt racism—like the kind portrayed in the story of Jackie Robinson in the movie 42—trapped, damaged and broke down the very fabric of many African American communities.
While we as a nation—and particularly those who follow Christ—repent of the sins of our forefathers and reject the practices and beliefs of racial segregation in the past, today the Church must continue with the faithful struggle of the Abolitionists. We must continue the work of the Gospel, which at its core is a force for reconciliation, restoration and renewal.
As the Church takes the lead in efforts of reconciliation, it must be prepared for it to continue for decades and generations, as we overcome the deep and painful wounds caused by centuries of racism.
On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let’s remember the destructive nature of the past and recommit ourselves to the gospel informed practices of reconciliation, restoration and renewal.