This is the time of year when most people enthusiastically set out to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions, which is good. But I think it’s worth evaluating the content of our resolutions: Do they only center ourselves as individuals, or do our resolutions also include our community? When I think about our community, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of the beloved community comes to mind, which is timely as we are preparing to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day—a time for us to reflect on his legacy and work to make his dream of the beloved community a reality.
According to The King Center, “Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood… Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.”
In my work as a public theologian who advocates for justice for Africans and African descended people around the globe, Dr. King’s vision informs my advocacy. Last month during my time at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, a beautiful tapestry of Africans and African-Diasporan activists all gathered together to advocate for the flourishing of our people.
My contribution was to advocate for reparations from the floor of the United Nations on behalf of Africans and African descended people who’ve been oppressed and impacted by the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its subsequent atrocities. For so long amid continuing discrimination and countless injustices, we could easily become overwhelmed and fall into despair. This tightrope of sorrow and hope requires spiritual agility and unrelenting fortitude to press forward by faith.
The world we live in is marked by tension. The presence of evil is clearly seen when we turn on the news or scroll our social media timelines. We see all manner of sin in the form of oppression and death. Yet, the beauty and goodness of the world is also a present reality. We see this when we hear the beautiful sound of children laughing and playing, watch the glory of the sunset, or witness the majesty of a rainbow in the sky after a significant rainstorm. That is the tension we grapple with, and it’s in this place of tension that Jesus came to this world to bring about the kingdom of God—marked by righteousness, peace, joy, justice, and eternal life.
Sometimes the evidence of goodness within this world can be hard to find, but we get glimpses when we see people trusting in God and working together to see justice prevail. And although we live within this tension, we are to love God, ourselves, and our neighbors in both word and deed (Matthew 22:37–40), so that we might bring the blessings of justice, righteousness, and love to bear in this world.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood his kingdom assignment and held on to hope until the end of his life. Lest we forget, Dr. King did not die of natural causes. He was killed because he had a dream and a plan. A plan which he laid out in his final work, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
In it, he advocates for non-violent activism and unified use of the ballot, resistance against racism and more. King’s deep understanding is on full display as he speaks to the strengths and concerns of the responses to injustice prevalent in his day. It is an understanding that still serves us well over five decades later—a sober, timely, practical, and prophetic work for today’s chaotic and polarized climate.
How are you working to make Dr. King’s dream of the beloved community a reality?Leave a Comment