Guest column: What Paris, Selma, and the Cross have in common

The violent acts in France of extremists trying to divide and conquer have actually brought people together. I watched in awe as reporters interviewed people of various faiths, cultures, and languages, who all came together declaring with pride “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie). I was amazed as leaders from various nations demonstrated visible support for people they never met.

But what struck me the most were the demonstrators who stood in a line holding up a single word: SOLIDARITY.

The word solidarity means unity or agreement among individuals, especially around a common cause. Those who gathered in France stood in solidarity with those who lost their lives. They came together against the common enemy of terrorism, realizing that no one is immune from being a target of evil.

As we reflect on the day set aside to celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we cannot help but remember the good that can come when many people gather together in solidarity as one. During the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King and those who worked with him became magnets for people of all races, classes, ages and states to walk in unity against the evils of injustice. Through marches, sit-ins and demonstrations, thousands of people came together declaring that all are one and one represents us all.

By coming together to fight the common enemies of discrimination and segregation, laws and policies were changed to create better lives for all Americans. Through the power of solidarity, the negative experiences of a few became the primary concern of many. In short, this unity drove positive change for everyone.

The concept of solidarity is not an unfamiliar one for Christians. As believers in Jesus Christ, we understand that what God did through Christ on the cross represents solidarity at its best. By dying for the world, Jesus took on our sins, and although He was just one person, he represented us all. According to Paul, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).

Through the cross, Jesus stood in solidarity with us by taking on our sin. He never personally sinned, but he took on the weight of our wrongdoings to be one with us. He did not have to experience pain, but he did so to be in solidarity with humanity. While Jesus had every reason not to be with us, He chose to be like us to bring positive change for the world.

Because of the work of Christ on the cross, our negative experiences of death can be transformed into eternal life.

Much like demonstrators in Paris or those who marched in Selma, Jesus came to walk alongside us. Because he stood with us in death, we can stand with him in the experience of abundant life on earth and eternal life in heaven.

This month, ask God how your efforts of solidarity with others can bring about positive change for all. Whether speaking up for someone who needs help or standing in silence protest with those who are oppressed, dare to let the solidarity of Christ live through you today.