February is the month that has been designated to honor the lives and contributions of African Americans who have impacted American society in significant ways. Before there was Black History Month, there was ‘Negro History Week,’ initiated by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926. The national celebration was declared to be official by President Gerald Ford in 1976.
Not everyone within the African American community embraces the month-long tribute. For instance, actor Morgan Freeman has publicly stated that black history is simply American history and there is no need to separate the two. For Freeman, when American history is properly presented, it will automatically entail education about the historical value of those within the African American community.
What does this have to do with the Christian life? Black History Month reminds us of those upon whose shoulders we stand today. Black History Month is not merely for African Americans, for blacks of previous generations did much to enhance not only the African American community, but the American community. In the same way, Christians in the past have made tremendous sacrifices in order to preserve the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Take William Tyndale for example, a man who risked his life to translate the Bible into English during the sixteenth-century. Facing threats from the Catholic Church’s leadership, Tyndale proceeded to work on his English translation so that the common people (i.e. you and me) could have access to God’s Word. His efforts got him into trouble with the religious authorities of that day, and he was eventually burned at the stake for undermining and ‘threatening’ the power of the Roman Catholic Church.
Think about that: hundreds of years ago, a man from a different part of the world gave his life so that we could read and understand the Bible in our own language. Yet, many of us take the Word of God for granted, for we do not read or cherish it as we should.
Let us view Black History Month as an opportunity to remember and learn from those who have given their lives for something greater than themselves. For the Christian, the ultimate example of this is the death of Christ on the cross for our sins. Following His resurrection from the dead, many of His followers obediently carried His message to the ends of the earth. Because of their sacrifice, thank God we are saved today!
Praise God for those who preceded us, whatever their race or nationality; let us continue the Christian legacy of evangelism and service until the end of the age.
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” -Hebrews 13:7, NIV