We are continuing our “Christians Celebrating Black History Month” Series with the discussion of Edward Gilbreath’s book, Reconciliation Blues.
When people ask me, “Why pursue Racial Reconciliation,” my short response is, “For the sake of the gospel.” I say this because taking a deeper look at racial reconciliation challenges the way we approach evangelism. If we are to make disciples of all nations, that means we must love and engage all people. We must care enough about “them” to enter into their world and bring the light of Jesus where there is darkness.
Ed understands the connection between racial reconciliation and evangelism. We would be wise to consider his points:
- During an interview, Pastor Christ Williamson recalls a conversation about diversity in Christian organizations. His counterpart said, “Things won’t change in the American church until his generation dies off, that that’s just the way it is (78).” This gentleman was honest, yet embarrassed by his own assessment of the situation. Pastor Williamson later thought to himself, “They’re going to step out and try to change situations as it pertains to same-sex marriage or abortion or evolution in schools. But when it comes to social justice and institutional racism, then all of a sudden they just accept it the way it is until a generation dies off (78-79)?” This conversation really spoke to me about the nature of our values. In the American Church (individually and collectively), we should ponder what we value. Additionally, we should also consider what we don’t value and why.
- “The true sign of racial process in the evangelical world will be indicated by the willingness of whites to be led by people of color (79).” During the Multi-cultural Church Segment of our Racial Reconciliation Series, we discussed the importance of having the right people and a diverse platform in today’s churches. All of the multi-cultural churches I visited and interviewed for the racial reconciliation series had people of color on paid staff. One of them had a person of color as the Senior Pastor, and that is rare. In this day, local congregations definitely need to consider this sign of racial process. (This is not simply a consideration for the local congregations, however, it is also a question for our evangelical institutions of higher learning and those involved in publishing.)
- “The sad tendency of evangelical faith is to elevate the act of evangelism over the humanity of the people we want to reach (155).” Unfortunately, I have witnessed this reality more often than I care to remember. We have to focus on Jesus during this earthly ministry. We must pay attention to what he spoke and what he did. He had compassion on all kinds of people; yes, he wanted them to make a decision and that was evident by the way he individually loved them. “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
- “How can we be reconciled if we don’t take the time to understand the hearts and concerns of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are different from us?…If American is to emerge as a truly multicultural nation, and if American evangelism is to be an important part of that growth, then voices from every race and culture must be heard…as a reconciled community with a biblical vision and voice (156).”
Question of the Day: Do you examine the role your racial identity plays in the formation of your faith practice (15)?