This is a blog post written by Dr. Eric Mason who is the lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia and originally featured here. This subject is very near and dear to my life as we try to model this to others in our spheres of influence.
Racial reconciliation is a phrase that I have heard about for the last 30 plus years. It has been paraded in conferences, sermons, books, etc. With non-Christians, the subject matter isn’t really a subject matter any longer. There seems to be a bit of a conversational transition as it relates to civil items to other so-called civil rights matters.
However, when you bring up the idea of racial reconciliation in the Church, there seems to be a sign of frustration among God’s people concerning it, mainly among blacks and whites in America, because it continues to be a subject of failure in how it is addressed. Whether it is through messages that bring temporary conviction but lack repentance for all who are involved or any other mechanism, something is lacking. Therefore, a sense of apathy has developed which has stalemated the process.
Let’s start with a few items as we seek to add to the discussion on the subject. Might we define reconciliation?
Reconciliation is the restoration of friendly relationships and of peace, where there had previously been hostility and alienation. Ordinarily, it also includes the removal of the offense that caused the disruption of peace and harmony (Rom. 5:10, 2 Cor. 5:19, Eph. 2:16).
Although racial reconciliation is not the gospel or the central focus of it, it is a qualitative application of the gospel in function and practice.
On the matter of race, theologically, there are only two races: redeemed and unredeemed (1 Peter 2:9). The people of God are spoken of as “a chosen race,” “a holy nation.” We are spoken of in the singular as “a” unified, eternal nationality whom Jesus Christ, through His blood, has brewed together as His eternal subjects of representation.
Wow! So beginning with the gospel and continuing in its implications is important.
The key in the definition is the “removal of the offense.” We know that in Jesus the sins of injustice and inequality have been removed, but functionally they still exist. The gospel deals with barriers. It doesn’t merely overlook them. Jesus bore our sin on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21). Therefore, He didn’t look beyond our faults. He looked at them and dealt with them through Jesus.
One of the great challenges of the aforementioned subject is faults are not dealt with. On the one hand, African-Americans can deal with the issue of bitterness, and whites can deal with not fully confronting the sins of commission that happened in the past overtly and those that are done today covertly. In addition, there can be a response on both sides to walk in a sin of omission, failing to do something good when you know you should do it.
Some ways we are seeking to unearth and deal with racial reconciliation:
- Find out the secret of where people are. In this, we throw out subjects in the sermons to be tackled in small group interaction. For instance, through our series on Nehemiah, we dealt with the injustice of white privilege. Nehemiah repents for the sins that he has benefited from and lives in because of the sins of his fathers.Some of the whites were a little unsettled about my commentary. After a few weeks of it being a discussion with the gospel at the center (and having a white elder’s help), some of what might have come off as harsh was cleared up. He even coached me on bringing more substantial examples to clarify my claims so that white members wouldn’t feel alienated. He stated, though, that I should be candid.
- Speaking about the missiological challenges of whites helping with inner-city missions as leaders. In our neighborhood, there is some mild gentrification and development issues that cause blacks to feel bypassed. As we do outreaches, prayer walks and relational interaction to share Jesus, we were candid with our church about how many neighbors feel towards whites. Frankly, they don’t trust them.Therefore, I stated that until trust was built, other ethnicities must lead the missiological charge. Some people had a romantic understanding of missions and were frustrated that I made the statement. However, upon walking the neighborhood and seeing the conditions that people were in, understanding began to develop and dialogue began to ensue because of contextual ignorance. Whites began to understand, as well as blacks who were not a part of the neighborhood. People began repenting of sin in prayers and asking the Lord to remove barriers.
- Getting people in the room together. This may seem obvious, yet people like going to a multiethnic church but have issues with multiethnic community. When you get one race of believers in multiethnic interaction and doing life together, this is when we have to face the barriers. If we do not face the inferential barrier of sin that exists, we live in a delusion.The center of the discussion should not be racial reconciliation. That can get annoying, but when the gospel is the center and the Holy Spirit is at work, it will come up just as any other issue. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth. If that is true, the subject will come up in a more multifaceted manner.
A year or 2 back I remember reading an article that said something to the sort of Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion. This began a disturbing trend that came next to the Dr. Kermit Gosnell arrest and subsequent conviction but no real news of the horrors of this man. Next, I had the privileged of listening to Lila Grace Rose at a local banquet and her inspiring ministry for the unborn nationwide. Next, I watched as Rep. Wendy Davis (D) from Texas filibustered a bill, in some spiffy shoes I might add, that would have severely reduced and restricted access to abortions in Texas thus she became a quick celebrity on Pro-Choice circles.
As I have been on this journey from hardcore pro-choice to hardcore pro-life I have tried wrestled with my level of participation in this conversation. No matter where I seem to hide, this subject seems to follow me, and now this week a new controversial pro-life documentary came out that examines the truth about abortion and the single biggest failure of the pro-life movement, not calling abortion what it really is…Murder.
Please [actually] watch this movie and then tell me where you stand on this subject.
Over the last few years of my life, around this time of year, I have been placed in a conundrum in my life. Every January the celebration of Martin Luther King’s (MLK) Birthday and the Sanctity of Life Sunday seem to fall on the same Sunday. Growing up in Kansas City I went to a traditional Black church every Mid-January we spoke of Dr. King and his Christian impact on the nation in the civil rights movement. Now that I’m a part of a majority Caucasian church Mid-January’s bring reflections the infamous Roe vs. Wade decision. If you didn’t know Sunday (1/19) was “Sanctity of Life Sunday” is followed by Martin Luther King Jr Monday (1/20), which is followed by Roe V. Wade’s 41st anniversary on Wednesday (1/22). There is a chilling contrast between the January 20th celebration of the life of MLK and the advancement of civil rights his legacy leaves; while simultaneously mourning the January 22nd anniversary of legalized abortion and the millions of innocent dead babies its legacy leaves. Depending on the context, it seems that focusing on one issue or the other we are missing the boat on one of the most incredibly important subjects that affect our church today.
“…it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
How much have things changed? This is the largest chasm that is extant in the body of Christ in the US. Our continued segregation preaches something to our surrounding culture, and it is not positive about the Kingdom of God. We must find a way to intentionally seek racial reconciliation while addressing such a grievous sin of our nation, which happens to affect African Americans disproportionately. The problem is both [majority] Black and Caucasian churches miss the issues that have not historically effected our communities, by doing this we miss the larger issue that severs the Kingdom of God and is simultaneously is destroying lives.
So what’s the solution? Maybe churches should make this a period of intense focus both on the protection of life and racial reconciliation. I do not think that this is a mistake by God but orchestrated in His plan for us to take advantage two subjects that seem so different yet speak to similar injustices in our nation and in the Kingdom of God.
“The Negro cannot win if he is willing to sacrifice the futures of his children for immediate personal comfort and safety. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” – Psalm 68:5
A few years ago I was given a book by my best friend and it blew me away. The book is called “Church for the Fatherless: A Ministry Model for Society’s Most Pressing Problem” by Pastor Mark Strong. The book itself served as no surprise to me but as I dug deeper I found myself trying to better understand the Churches role in the remedy. Here are the stats
- According to 72.2 % of the U.S. population, fatherlessness is the most significant family or social problem facing America.
- An estimated 26.63 million children (33%) live absent their biological father.
- Of students in grades 1 through 12, 39 percent (17.7 million) live in homes absent their biological fathers.
- Currently 57.6% of black children, 31.2% of Hispanic children, and 20.7% of white children are living absent their biological fathers.
- The 1997 Gallup Youth Survey found the following among U.S. teens:
- 33 % live away from their father
- 43% of urban teens live away from their father
- In 2010 over twenty million lived with no father (biological, adoptive, or step).
Looking at this epidemic is seriously overwhelming. The question I have is how do we equip communities to bring healing and change to the fatherless landscape in our cities?
This is not something that the Bible is quiet about yet at all. As I read through the Bible God speaks about the orphan with great care and HE also charges us with engaging them. Throughout history Christians have spearheaded movements in this arena and we have a distinct opportunity to do it once again. The question is simple, how? How do we engage a culture so different the the one we have built our churches around? How do we respond to this with the heart of the One who says, ‘Father, He is father to the fatherless?’ You see this is a theological issue, it’s not just a social issue that the government has to take care of kids, because God Himself calls Himself Father to the fatherless. Our response is that we have to be reconcilers—that we have to enter the shame and suffering of a generation. We have to step into their lives with the same intimacy in which Christ stepped into ours at the incarnation. This a messy process but one that we must be engaged in to affect our communities and reflect our God.
[update] I saw this video and it broke my heart, yet it fits right in with this subject.
I should begin this post by saying I have never once watched an episode of Duck Dynasty nor do I intend to. Yes, I know what the show is about and know I do not need to prove it to you, and yes, I am still a Christ follower (just kidding, though for some of you I not kidding at all). The news of Phil Robertson’s comments came across my screen and left just as quickly as it appeared but I did understand what was coming next and I just braced myself. It is in these moments that I dread social media and its ability to give everyone a public voice (but this is a post for another day). After some of the Facebook posts I saw over the last few days, I have decided to say my 2 cents and then let the debate rage.
I wish [Christians]would care this much about poverty & abuse & slavery & caring for the marginalized and oppressed then the kingdom of God would be so much better reflected in this dark crazy world.
I am completely for anyone’s Constitutional right to free speech, people can say what they want to say and believe what they want. What makes me sad is that these moments represent Christians to the world. The internet is powerful, Social Media is powerful because it is distilled. The things we say and do reflect what we truly believe and from the looks of things we care more about:
- Duck Dynasty
- Gay Marriage
- Conservative/ Republican/Libertarian “values”
- the Constitution
- the United States and so much more
Even though we make very concerted efforts at connecting these things to the Kingdom of God, though they can not be connected. I have met so many amazing people who live out their faith in such beautiful, humble, and brave ways. They are opening the doors to the kingdom of heaven for people instead of wasting time defending positions for millionaires who can take care of themselves or TV stations shooting themselves in the foot. They are outraged about things that Jesus is orphans, poverty, oppression, slavery, abuse, advance of His Kingdom and His Gospel, people dying and going to a real hell and the question is are willing to do something about these real issues. So many people commenting, writing letters, starting petitions, but can not articulate the last time they shared there faith. You might be fighting for the wrong kingdom. The amazing people I mentioned, they reflect the incarnation of Christ and that’s what we’re supposed to be celebrating this season.
This is the Advent season that affords us the reality that Christ came for us and in that truth we are supposed to be turning the world upside down, our lives are supposed to be centered around. It is for this reason [and others] I am over this “debate” and so should you too.
Let me know what you think by liking the post, commenting below, and/or sharing it and thinks for listening.