For all of his great rhetorical flourishes, the phrase that comes to mind as we remember Martin Luther King, Jr. this next week, is his oft repeated refrain about “all God’s children.” He famously declared:
“I have a dream … when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”
Dr. King reminds us that we are God’s children, echoing St. John: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (I John 3:1) As children of God, we bear a resemblance to our Father. That is just another way of declaring the age-old doctrine that all of us, Christian and non-Christian, are created in God’s image. At the very least the imago Dei means that each and every one of us is endowed with dignity, equality and significance. Being an image-bearer is what ultimately defines our essence as human beings, and especially for followers of Christ, bearing His image identifies our mission in this world.
The Gospel of Jesus calls us to live on a different plane of existence: “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly before God.”(Micah 6:8) Martin Luther King’s words are more relevant than ever in a nation increasingly divided by scatology, vitriol, misogyny and racism.
And all God’s children say AMEN!
Frank A. James III, DPhil, PhD
President and Professor of Historical Theology
Originally published at Biblical Theological Seminary