Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr., and Having a Dream

Lessons from the life of Dr. King

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day—a Monday dedicated each year to celebrating the legacy of a man who labored tirelessly for racial equality.

As the Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, I’ve naturally taken particular interest in a certain relationship: that is, the friendship between Rev. Billy Graham and Dr. King. Graham spoke of this friendship in a press conference he gave in Bonn, Germany, in the spring of 1970. He remarked on King’s work, arguing that as a social reformer, his goal, ultimately, was to fulfill the same mission Graham worked towards—just through different means. (Be sure to read his actual words.)

Graham’s point, especially in today’s cultural context, is a critical one. Mission is a broad term, and is more than gospel proclamation alone. The message of Christ’s love and redemption is always at the heart of the work we do, certainly. But that doesn’t mean that all our day-to-day work looks the same.

Martin Luther King Jr. worked, among other things, to free African Americans living in the United States from the oppression of segregation. He worked day and night speaking, writing, and organizing events and groups of leaders with the goal of doing justice for those who are oppressed.

King ultimately dedicated his life to this cause because he had a dream—but not just any dream—a mission that led to a dream.

Our engagement of issues of race remind us that Jesus came not just to save those with a certain skin color, but every tongue, tribe, and nation on earth. His love wasn’t ‘color-blind’ because different colors didn’t scare him. His love, poured out on that old rugged cross, was for all people. ...

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