Racial Reconciliation

Achieving racial reconciliation is challenging and seemingly impossible — both in our country and within the church. The stipulations imposed on us because of our differences should not determine how we relate to one another, but sadly, it seems they do.

The most recent deaths of Alton Sterling (Baton Rouge, LA) and Philander Castile (St. Anthony, MN) by police and the deaths of 5 police officers (Dallas, TX) by Micah Johnson have once again ignited lingering embers of hatred and fear within our nation. We hear cries of “Black Lives Matter,” “Blue Lives Matter”, “All Lives Matter,” and more — each with their own allegations, critics, and followers.

Reconciliation 6When it comes to racism in America, it seems like our country hasn’t learned from the past or grown up from its failures of slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and social bias. We can point fingers, blame politicians, scoff at social activists, and become hardened to the problems. We can remain ignorant to it or try to ignore it. But the problems of racism and the realities of its hatred are only increasing. Today, racism in America is no longer just a black and white issue.

Racism comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Racism isn’t just a southern problem, an urban problem, a Middle-East problem, or a American problem. Racism is a human problem. And it has always been a sin problem. It can be found in every culture but, it is most visible when cultures clash and inequities are felt.

At its core, racism begins with selfish pride and can be flamed into selfish hate when influenced over time with experience. Its siblings, classism and elitism, come from the same selfish, sinful, Satantic origins.  Racism won’t be eliminated from the world until sin is cleansed from our hearts and removed from the world in God’s time.

Human history, especially American history, demonstrates that diversity can too often complicate life and contradict holiness, but in Christ, a place where by grace we belong, we find unity. Lord help us, “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

Reconciliation 4With this prayer, may we who belong to God’s family by faith in Christ alone always celebrate and prioritize our Christian family identity in Christ above ALL else (including our view of police or our stance on politics) and find our unity in Christ as the truest definition of our lives regardless of our skin color, cultural differences, socio-economic backgrounds, family status, or political leanings.

We need to live the way Christ wants us to live— united in Him. Diversity within the body of Christ has been the DNA of Christianity from the first century, and especially of the church—and the Lord delights in it!

Our reconciliation with others will never happen by pursing unity – it will only come from pursuing Christ who reconciled us to God.

Consider the following Scriptures:

For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now received this reconciliation through Him. (Romans 5:10-11)

In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:19–20)

Only when we are reconciled with God through faith in Christ as our death substitute can we have hope of reconciling with others through life’s sojourn.
Reconciliation 1Since the shooting of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, our country has become a tinder box of racial tension, division, and fear. Over the last week of the latest racial conflicts in our country and here in our community, we’ve heard some rhetoric that seems way over the top. We’ve experienced the anger and fears between the black community and law enforcement. We’ve been horrified by the vengeance of misguided individuals. But, should the overreaction of some cause us to overreact or worse, not react at all?

What can I do?  What can you do? WHAT CAN WE DO?

Intercede through prayer. Ask God to soften our hardened hearts, reveal our racial blind spots, and heal the deep festering wounds. The Lord God is the only one who can do so (Psalm 139:23–24). We know that reconciliation is God’s will according to His Word (Romans 12, Ephesians 2, and 2 Corinthians 5), so let’s pray without ceasing that we will be His ambassadors of peace and ministers of reconciliation. Let’s pray for those who are grieving deeply today over the loss of lives and weep with them. Let’s pray that we will respond to God as we reach out in grace to others – even those who are different and see the world differently than we do. Let’s pray for our brothers and sisters who are living in fear because of the color of their skin. Let’s pray for our police officers and other first responders who are serving faithfully during days of intense scrutiny and pressure. Let’s pray for the Lord to give wisdom to our governing authorities as they lead our country, “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2).

Instruct your own heart and mind through clear teaching of God’s Word under the direction of the Holy Spirit. We must recognize that the misinterpretation of the Bible has been utilized as a tool of prejudice and the misuse of Scripture as weapon of racism throughout American history, so we must approach Him in humility to learn from the Lord rather than reinforce our anger, justify our distrust, or rationalize our sinfulness. Let’s read more of the Bible to feed our souls with God’s heavenly perspective (could I suggest Ephesians?) than refreshing your newsfeed on social media which is filled with the vitriolic bias of humanity’s limited viewpoints.

Interact with others who are different. Let’s build intentional relationships (friendships), with neighbors, coworkers, classmates, and, especially, fellow members of God’s family who are different ethnically or racially. Let’s be those who are quick to listen to others who view the world differently because of their culture or their experiences, slow to speak our mind and share our opinions, and slow to become angry with those who are different than us. This starts with believing the best rather than assuming the worst of others who like us, bear God’s image. Verbally acknowledge the hurts and fears of others and seek reconciliation in Christ.

Reconciliation 5I confess, the outlook of this ongoing racial conflict which has been embedded in our nation since its beginnings and within our sinful hearts since the Garden (Genesis 3) looks hopeless. But, with God, nothing is impossible (Genesis 18:14; Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37, 18:27).

Please, Lord Jesus, hear our prayers, transform our hearts, and reconcile our relationships.

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

Prince of Peace

Our world today is anything but peaceful. Many people are driven by fear, angry about the events of our world, protesting the injustices of racism or refugees, preparing for war, and even fighting a war of words within our country. As we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), we are anything but peaceful.

Jesus said to His followers on the night He was betrayed and eventually crucified, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful” (John 14:27).

Jesus gives His peace to us today as an inheritance that will secure our composure and dissolve our fears (Philippians 4:7). It’s His peace that controls our hearts (Colossians 3:12-15). For “God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgement” (2 Timothy 1:7). Jesus gives us His peace as we walk with Him by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) rather than be stirred up by earthly fears.

Paris attacksJesus, Himself, felt troubled by His impending crucifixion (John 12:27), yet still trusted His Heavenly Father’s will to be done (Matthew 26:39,42). So, the peace that Jesus gives is not an exemption from conflicts and difficulties; it’s a part of taking up our cross to follow Him (Luke 9:23-24). Resting in His peace is not an escape from reality nor is it an excuse for passivity. In fact, His peace is anything but passive — it must be actively pursued because it doesn’t come naturally (Psalm 34:14Romans 14:19; Hebrews 12:14).

Peace will not come if we speak in words that inflame arguments or in ways that antagonize other people (1 Timothy 5:1–22 Timothy 2:1424–26). We should be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry (James 1:19) and even slower to post or comment on social media. The things that make for peace are refraining from verbal criticism and resisting cynical thinking by leaning on Jesus through dependent prayer (John 15:4, Galatians 5:22-23). We need to live peaceably with all people as much as we can (Matthew 5:9Mark 9:50Romans 12:18) because peaceful interpersonal relationships (including those on social media) produce godliness (James 3:18). When Peter rashly took matters into his own hands, Jesus admonished him to submit to the sovereignty of God (Matthew 26:52-54) because man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness (James 1:20).

Protestors in ChicagoThe peace that Jesus gives us is not an absence of conflict, rather, it’s a settled confidence that comes from knowing that we are right with God and that one day Jesus will come for those of us who are waiting for His return (Isaiah 53:5Romans 5:11 Pe 2:24–25Titus 2:11-14). Not only is Jesus the God of peace, but we can experience the peace of God (Philippians 4:7). As fully devoted followers of Jesus who focus on this truth, we can experience supernatural peace in the midst of trouble and fear, just as Jesus did.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace today as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). May the God of peace Himself set you apart for His purposes completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do these things (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  He is, after all, the Prince of Peace.
Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.