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Racial Reconciliation: What Can We Do?

Posted by Zach on October 24, 2017

"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robesand were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

Revelation 7:9-10

     In the last blog post I mentioned how the church is going to have to shift toward a greater pursuit of embracing cultural diversity and racial reconciliation if it is going to be relevant in the future, more diversified, United States. However, a more multi-cultural United States is not all that is in view here. As the verses above highlight, the church's future, heavenly form is a vastly diverse body of believers without conflict, injustice, or division. This is our future! So, what are some practical steps for the white Christian community to take?  What is the white response or approach to this? See what I did there? Anyways, that is the question in focus here. I would like to focus on three simple steps for us to consider following. Please note, while these steps certainly apply to all cultures, my examples and resources provided will be focusing specifically on racial reconciliation regarding whites toward African-Americans. This is due to fact of our nation's troubled past and its influence on today, our current troubled times, and the context and demographics of my city. 

1. Diversify your friendship/relationship circle. I'm not talking about mere acquaintances but people with whom you have a relationship. If you don't see much diversity in your friendships, start with proximity. Is there a neighbor, co-worker, or fellow student to invest in and build a friendship? Sure, it might be a little awkward at first, and they may be somewhat reserved at the start. Press on though, befriending them with no expectation from them, only to love, serve, listen, and learn. Jesus didn't send us out as missionaries to love only those like us or those that like us (Luke 6:32-33).

2.Diversify your cultural experience (your reading, studying, music, news media, etc.). Seek to grow in your knowledge and understanding of other cultures, especially those around you. I scanned my collection of books a couple weeks ago (I have a few) and I was surprised to realize that outside of a couple books, most of the books were by older white authors. Though I have listened to various styles of music (I am very eclectic there) and listened to preachers from different cultures, my library was not so diverse. So, I am now reading articles and slowly working through books from Christian leaders of different ethnicities. This can’t all be done from behind a book in our own home though. How could you use weekly routines to immerse yourself in another culture? Maybe this looks like becoming a regular at the local Indian restaurant, Chinese buffet, or soul food diner instead of the official Sunday restaurants of white evangelicalism (McAlister’s and Newks). If you have Spotify or Apple Music, check out a different genre of music than you typically listen to. However, don’t just listen to the music, pay attention to the lyrics. What message is being communicated? What do the words reveal about man, his purpose, and his view of God? How does the gospel address the message of the song? Or better yet, how would Jesus respond to the author of those song lyrics? Engage yourself in a cultural study to learn as much as you can in order to best connect with and understand your neighbors you have been called to love as yourself (Mark 12:30-31).

3.Engage in conversations that would confront racism when it is appropriate. The truth that "silence is consent" is applicable here. Racism is the fruit of confused, sinful thinking and the division and conflict it yields is devastating in many ways.  Therefore, part of the solution to moving toward unity is confronting it, with truth in love, when it surfaces. We must boldly proclaim the message that we have all been equally created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We all have been created with equal worth and trace our lineage, as one human race, back to Adam. It is because of our sin that we are so divided over color, tongue, and culture, but this was never to be accepted as the norm.

     Of course, this is to be done with the right words, in the right manner, and at the right time, but that is why our hope is in the Holy Spirit inside us and not our own wisdom and communication skills. May we not shy away from these conversations or laugh off offensive comments. May we be empowered by His Spirit to lovingly speak truth to others in the hope of seeing sin and misunderstanding exposed and hearts changed toward love and unity.

     I am inviting you to open up and have conversations on the subject of racism, but also of cultural differences. Ask questions and seek understanding. Confess your struggles with this and seek accountability. Understand that white isn't always right and that we need other cultures to help expose our own cultural blindspots and misconceptions. Understand that while truth doesn't change, how it is observed, applied, and communicated  in cultural contexts may vary. 

“Jesus did not come into the world to endorse anybody’s platform. He doesn’t fit in…He came so that from that day on Jesus himself would be the supreme treasure and authority in our lives…He came so that the only kind of racial diversity and racial harmony we would pursue is Jesus-exalting, God-glorifying, and gospel-formed.”

(excerpt from John Piper, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian)

Helpful Resources:

Authors:

Bryan Loritts          Eric Mason          HB Charles Jr.          Charlie Dates          Thabiti Anyabwile

Podcasts:

Pass The Mike (RAAN)          Jude 3 Project          Remembering Tomorrow

Books:

Divided by Faith      Gospel for Life Series  (Racial Reconciliation)     The Decline of African American Theology (T. Anyabwile)

Beyond Liberation (Carl Ellis)      Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (for understanding the Muslim worldview)

Movies:

13th (Netflix documentary)     12 Years a Slave (Please note this film is rated R)     The Butler (2013)

Selma     To Kill a Mockingbird     42 (2013)

Music:

Lecrae (old 116 clique works but definitely his new stuff and recent interviews)           DJ Propaganda

Black Gospel Music (Jackson, MS 103.5 FM)          Jackie Hill Perry