Monday, January 15, 2007

The King's Dream

Last Thursday, Mandy and I went to see Freedom Writers, the gripping true story of rookie teacher Erin Gruwell. Gruwell is hired to teach freshmen English at an integrated Long Beach high school two years after the infamous L.A. riots.

Her class is an eclectic tapestry of faces and races. The atmosphere is charged with territorial rivalry. For her students, caught up in the gangs of Long Beach, their main ambition is to survive another day, literally. Learning English is the farthest thing on their minds.

Through some innovative methods, Gruwell not only accomplishes the mission given her by the school district, she helps bridge the racial gap dividing her students. Her success and innovative methods have led to the founding of the Freedom Writers Foundation.

40 years ago, another innovator was blazing a trail across the American South. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the primary voice of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's, dreamed of a day in which every American was evaluated "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Dr. King's life was cut short when, in 1968, he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, but his legacy endures.

Today, our nation pauses from the routine of everyday life to reflect and remember the life and legacy of Dr. King.

What Gruwell and Dr. King accomplished in their life's mission was not simply a dream rooted in their own values; their dream was born of the King of Kings' dream. Jesus himself dreamed of a kingdom where people saw one another as God does. When Samuel was sent by God to size up the sons of Jesse to anoint the next king of Israel, we discover "the LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16.7). To see people not on the basis of the color of their skin but by the content of their character is to see people as God does.

For the next few days, I want to devote my blogs to pursuing the implications of living as color-blind disciples of Jesus in a multiracial, multiethnic world. Government intervention, such as the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, can promote behavioral change but only the dream of Jesus can prompt attitude change and new vision, causing us to see every human being as God does -- as a valued soul created in the image of God.