|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on October 23, 2020 at 2:40 PM|
A Spiritual Perspective for Racial Reconciliation
By Pastor Emanuel Williams
The Need for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in America
Beginning in May with the death of George Floyd every time you and I turn on our TVs or read the AJC, there is a report of an event that has sparked racial unrest and the need for racial reconciliation is mentioned. So, let’s examine this issue:
• During this year, there has been racial unrest across the United States as a result of incidents in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Kenosha, Louisville. In light of these incidents, politicians, business leaders, and clergy are talking about the need for healing and reconciliation between blacks and whites.
• Businesses and community groups are calling for the formation of councils and committees to monitor race relations within the community and for steps to bring about racial reconciliation.
• However, the United States is not the only nation to experience racial violence and the potential for civil unrest.
A. I would like to cite the historic example of a recent event in which the role religion played a major role in achieving racial reconciliation.
(1) During the 90’s the nation of South Africa was facing a crisis. A majority black government was preparing to come into power, and the world held its breath as to what would be the outcome. Could there be a peaceful transition from white to black political power after decades of racial unrest and injustice? But just as God raised up Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt, God raised up a man to resolve the acute crisis and to bring reconciliation.
(2) Archbishop Desmond Tutu oversaw South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and was able to instill a willingness among whites and blacks to forgive. In one instance, a white officer confessed his role in a massacre and asked for forgiveness. In the audience were people who were wounded in the incident and people who had lost loved ones. But when the officer asked for forgiveness they did not rush to strangle or assault him but applauded. Such examples of forgiveness led to widespread reconciliation.
(3) My point is that through Bishop Tutu’s moral and religious leadership, bloodshed and revenge were avoided and a road to a peaceful transition of the government was accomplished through racial reconciliation.
(4) During this period there arose a phenomenon - The Spirit of “ubuntu”
(a) It was another example of a religious practice that helped to prompt and promote racial reconciliation in South Africa. The word “ubuntu” was used to describe someone who was generous, hospitable and compassionate and who shared whatever he/she had.
B. In his memoirs, Bishop Tutu says that at the very core of ubuntu is a true understanding of brotherhood and fellowship as expressed in the New Testament Greek word Koinonia.
Forgiveness versus reconciliation
• Is unilateral Is bilateral
• Requires only one person Is reciprocal
• Decision to release the offender Effort to rejoin the offender
• Requires change in thinking about Involves a change in behavior
The offender by the offender
• Is a free gift to the one who has Restored relationship based on
Broken trust restored trust
• Extended even if it is never earned Offered to the offender because
It has been earned.
• Unconditional, regardless of Conditional based on repentance
While we know that FORGIVENESS has its basis in Christianity and the teachings of Jesus, what about RECONCILIATION? What is the spiritual basis for reconciliation?
1. Reconciliation and Religion in America “Bound Together: Racial Reconciliation Begins in the Church – Jerram Barrs: Covenant Theological Seminary
A. The biblical framework for forgiveness and reconciliation
Historically, the failure of the Christian Church to speak out for and live out reconciliation between races may tempt people to believe that there are only a few verses in the Word of God which address this issue. But when we turn to Scripture, we find that reconciliation is a core value of our faith. Let me share with you four examples of the relationship between faith and reconciliation.
(1) Common Humanity (Acts 17:26-28) Paul on Mars Hill
“From one man God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:26-28) We have a common origin and we all live and move and have our being in God.
(2) Common Shame (Genesis 5:3 and Romans 3:22)
Secondly, we must recognize our common shame. Not only do we share the same glory, we bear the same shame. We all inherit the sinful nature of our parents, from Adam and Eve right down to the present day. Adam and Eve, we are told in Genesis 5:3, begot a child in their own image, in their own likeness. We share the image and likeness of God, but we also share the image and likeness of sinful humanity. There is a built-in connectedness among the people of this world.
(3) New Humanity in Christ – Jesus went to all people
Whether people were despised because of race, gender, culture, or sin, Jesus went to them. Jesus went into their homes, He ate with them, and they received Him gladly. The Son of God showed us how we are to be. Jesus taught His disciples that after His death He would draw to Himself men and women from every nation on the face of this earth. He declared that His passion is that there would be unity among his followers. John’s vision in Revelation
(4) The Longing of Christ – Highly Priestly Prayer John 17
John 17 records the night of Jesus’ death. What is the passion, the motivation, the longing that fills Jesus’ heart as He prepares Himself to go to crucifixion? John 17:20 records His prayer, “My prayer is not for them [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” Jesus’ passionate prayer before He dies, is that we, His people—all of us—will experience the kind of unity that the members of the Trinity experience.
The longing of Jesus Christ is that we (black, white, yellow and brown; male and female; young and old; from every people, tribe, tongue and nation) may be one. Jesus prayed saying, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Christ’s desire is not Asian-Americans here and Latinos there, Afro-Americans here and Anglo-Americans somewhere else, but rather that we may be brought to complete unit
(5) What stands in the way of unity?
(a) What stands in the way of the realization of unity in the body of Christ? What stands in the way of reconciliation?
• Our pride of heritage,
• our security in our cultural identity,
• our comfort in our color, the result is idolatry
(b) When this pride, this security, this comfort causes us to turn our back on Jesus’ prayer on the night that He died, then all we have is idolatry. It is idolatry that causes us to think we know better than Him how the church should be built before the world and we must repent of this idolatry.
© We need to be prepared to say with the apostle Paul, “I am white, I am English, I am Reformed, I am Presbyterian”—or whatever it may be for you—and say, “I consider this manure.” Those are Paul’s words. It is not just rubbish; I consider this dung in comparison to knowing
(6) How do we move forward from here?
Paul has told us the answer is humility. “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). We must humble ourselves before God’s Word and before one another. We must see the idolatrous nature of our hearts toward our cultural comfort and identity and cry out to God to convict us.
If you have not been awakened to the need for reconciliation in the body of Christ then you need to cry out to God that He will harrow your heart. Ask the Lord to convict you of what His Word teaches not in an obscure verse or two here and there, but what is taught from the beginning to the end of His Word about the unity of the human race and the unity of people in Jesus Christ. We need to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and under His Word. And then we need to make confession to God and to one another because the New Testament encourages us to confess our sins to one another that we might be healed. And we need to be healed.
2. Steps Toward Reconciliation
A. Personal examples of racial reconciliation: military and hospital settings
B. Video: Racism, Social Justice, and he Christian Response
A. Let us humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and under His Word.
B. Then let us make confession to God and to one another because the New Testament encourages us to confess our sins to one another that we might be healed.
C. And let us be healed through the power of God’s Holy Spirit