Tuesdays is the day for “Natasha’s Study.” It is a time of sharing book reviews, book reflections or discussions, book recommendations, or what I am learning from books. Today, I’m sharing a book review of Leroy Barber’s new release.
Why I picked up this book:
I have been following Leroy Barber’s ministry since I was introduced to his writing through Missio Alliance. I am on the bloggers list for Intervarsity Press which allows me to review new releases like these.
Who Should Read Embrace:
This book will be a good read for those who are just entering conversations about racial reconciliation, racial healing, and justice. This book offers much theological reflection and practical application. The myths presented in Chapter 9: “Yes Black Lives Matter!” is a must read for everybody.
What’s in Store for You:
Barber shares his personal stories and convictions of living in communities with the other, and walking with God. In short, his story-telling encourages the reader to openness and to expect the unexpected.
He begins with the very basic understanding that: “Good relationships make the world go ‘round.” We are all shaped by our communities and our relationships (or lack thereof) with other people.
Throughout the book, Barber reflects on Jeremiah 29:4-7, where God calls his chosen people to pray for the empire and the city of Babylon that has taken them into exile. God’s conclusion is that if the city of Babylon prospers then the people of God will also prosper. Barber informs the reader that “Babylon remains a synonym—the synonym—for ungodly depravity and corruption.” Although a place of exile, Babylon is where God has chosen for a remnant of his chosen people to dwell. He intends for them to work, thrive, and build relationships in that place.
There is a leadership phrase that says: Bloom where you are planted. The understanding is that no matter where you go or how difficult your boss or work assignment is, if you consider yourself a leader, then you will work to flourish and produce good and life in spirit of being in a bad situation. This is the challenge for all believers as well.
The fact is that sometimes God calls us to hard places and hard people, and he expects us to be fully present and to work for the greater good of the community where he has called us. It will be our responsibility to discern how we can best live in harmony and seek shalom in tough situations.
My personal take-aways?
I don’t know if you are familiar with Ken Sande’s book, “The Peacemaker: The Biblical Guide to Resolving Conflict” but it has made a radical change in my life. I first read the book in 2012, and discovered that when it comes to my personal relationships, I can sometimes fake peace instead of make peace.
When confronted with issues that are too big or problems that have been standing for too long, the temptation is to avoid, avoid, avoid or deny, deny, deny. I simply don’t deal with it, blame or walk away. The other extreme is “peacebreaking” where we insult others, gossip, or fight.
But God offers a better way, a third and gospel-centered way of peacemaking. When we truly become peacemakers, we must be willing to overlook small offenses, confront necessary issues, get help when needed, and hold each other accountable. The willingness of heart and the implementation of these righteous acts is what causes us to live in shalom (at peace with God and others).
We must be willing to communicate. I love the principles Barber offers for communication that fosters healthy change:
My assumption about other people are going to be challenged, and I need to be willing to get rid of my preconceptions and stereotypes.
My judgments about the way others live—their values, goals, and ways of doing things—must be suspended.
Creating community across cultures requires a whole lot of listening.
Deep relationships require that we extend love and forgiveness.
Barber reminds readers that “leaving a hard relationship has become easy in our society.” I was reminded that Jesus kept his friends close and his enemies even closer. Remember Judas anybody? There is also the reality that Jesus was always surrounded by crowds of diverse people who were needy and desperate, and availing ourselves to people in such a way always makes us vulnerable.
In reading this book, I have also been convicted about being more alert, present, and available in the city where God has currently called me. The Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) holds to Jesus’ model of incarnation, being present and living among the people where you have been called to serve. I am a suburbanite but there is much work that is needed in my city, and my family has only scratched the surface of being aware before we can adequately assess where God might be calling us to join in. The point is, we all need a willingness to invest where God has placed us and commit to work and relationship building over extended periods of time (at least 15 years).
“We can’t reach hard people if we are avoiding the hard places.” – @LeroyBarber
“God can handle the struggle of the deep; our shallowness is what’s really killing us.” – @LeroyBarber
“Unity takes work.” – @LeroyBarber
“We like to keep others in their place—usually somewhere beneath us—and protect the high regards we have for ourselves.” – Leroy Barber
“There is beauty in our cultural diversity. Honoring is usually better than analyzing.” – Leroy Barber
“When things get hard, it’s easy to justify moving away from the places where we are called, and the more privilege we have the easier those moves are to make. The hard things usually expose our level of commitment, and many times we find that our commitment has fallen short.” – Leroy Barber
“While settling in and making commitments to a new place, we should take the option of looking for people, groups, and places where we can invest time and energy to go deeper.” – Leroy Barber
“The dedication to stay at the table is vital if we are ever going to settle into relationship with a culture and community that is not our native one.” – Leroy Barber
Next Up on This Topic:
“The Cross and the Lynching Tree” by James H. Cone
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2016