Reconciliation in Times of Racial Conflict

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (NIV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
 
The Church has been given the message and the ministry of reconciliation, but there is so much work to do when it comes to reconciliation, unity, and love.  In the midst of all that is going on around us in the past week, the Church should be the first in line to grieve, to lament, to call out injustice, and to humbly repent of our own issues and how we’ve missed it in our congregations and in our hearts.  
 
What I am coming to realize is that very few topics summon the “old” in us like the topic of race.  Most of us are not willing to discuss this because it is too hard, or too messy, or what’s the big deal anyway?  We are all one in Christ.
 
The Bible does give us examples of racial and cultural tensions and we do well in learning from them.  The early church was not unscathed.  We see the first incident in Acts chapter 6.  In this chapter we see how the Hellenistic Jews complained that the Hebraic Jews were overlooking the Hellenistic widows in the daily distribution of food.  They were upset that their widows were being unnoticed and discriminated against by not receiving what they needed.  They were basically saying, “Hellenistic Lives Matter.”  There was tension, but the disciples, FILLED with the Spirit of God, listened and came up with a proposal that pleased THE WHOLE group.
 
Oh, we need the power of the Holy Spirit in this time.  May He empower us like the day of Pentecost with a special anointing of unity and love to reach all nations and all people, especially those who are living in our neighborhoods.
 
So what can we do in this specific time in history where there is so much division?  
 
Here are a few key suggestions:
 
1. Pray- We cannot do anything without prayer.  Dealing with racial differences can bring up the worst in us.  Pray that the Lord would be near to our black brothers and sisters who are grieving.  Pray that the Lord would give us a heart to love and serve in this time.  Pray for peace over our city and nation.
 
2. Empathize- “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).  We can never truly see the world through the eyes of others but we can try to understand, listen, and honor.  Let me give you this example.  I’m a pastor.  If someone came to me saying they were abused by another pastor or that hearing about someone being abused by a pastor triggered them, what would I do?  I would listen. I would empathize.  I would pray with them. I would take their anger and resentment. I would probably be led to ask for forgiveness on behalf of those who used their authority to harm.
 
I would not defend pastors. I would not take their anger or resentment personally, even if they insulted all pastors. I would not say let’s wait for all the facts to come in.  I would not present stats about how there are more good pastors compared to bad pastors. I would love, listen, and serve.  

I would believe that most of you would do the same.  I know that no example is perfect, but why then do we act without empathy when the topic becomes race?
 
3. Repent- We all are on a continuum of healing in our lives and one of those areas is the way we relate to others, which includes people of other races.  I believe that none of us can be “perfectly” healed while on earth, but we can strive to surrender to Jesus and allow Him to help us reflect His love especially to those who are different than us.  This means some of us need to continue healing from our past experiences and the prejudices our parents planted in our hearts.  Adopting a posture of repentance opens us up to receiving healing from our Lord and to humbly drawing near to others.
 
4. Relate- We can hide behind verses, we can hide behind statistics, we can hide behind our social media posts, we can hide behind words that say I accept everyone, but what do our actions say?  Change and reconciliation start by engaging someone who is different than I am.  It starts by saying to a fellow human being, I see you and I want to get to know you.  You are important to me.  It’s in relationship where I expand my way of seeing others and seeing life.  
 
I remember in my childhood growing up in a church where there were many undocumented immigrants.  Having meals, serving God together, becoming friends changed the way I view people who in my experience came to the United States to make a better way for their families.  Nothing that TV, or politicians, or social media says will make me see them differently because I know them and have had relationships with them.
 
5. Commit-  Our testimony as disciples depends on how we are able to love another.  John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  We have to make a commitment to become One and to love another in the midst of our diversity.  The diversity in the Body of Christ is beautiful and it needs to be celebrated and protected.  If we see injustice, we cannot be silent.  If we see our brother or sister grieving, grieve with them.  
 
As all sides try to sit at the table, something is certain. We will fumble through loving each other.  Everyone at the table sees things through their own cultural lens and life experiences.  Even in love we will stumble with words that try to honor, but fall flat or seem insensitive.  We will be tempted to just stop and shut down.  What must we do to continue growing and sitting at the table together?  We must extend grace to each other.  We also need to commit to seeing our differences and continue joining in the messy awkwardness of becoming one.   We see a picture of this in the commitment of marriage, where two different people mysteriously become one.  It is always a struggle and a challenge.  Our spouse’s difficulties become our difficulties and together we will sharpen each other to become more like Jesus.
 
Culture is crying out for this type of unity.  Unfortunately, culture does not understand that it cannot be forced on anyone and it cannot be done without God.  We have the answer.  May we together in unity and humility shine and commit to the ministry of reconciliation in these dark times.

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By Jimmy Reyes
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