3 Elements Needed for Racial Reconciliation
I’ve spoken on many racial reconciliation panels the past few years. They mostly look the same: a white guy, a black guy, an Asian guy, and a Mexican guy (me). Sometimes these panels are fruitful. Other times they aren’t. It basically depends on whether or not we know each other prior to the panel. If we do, the conversation is always better because we trust one another and push one another into the uncomfortable conversations that need to take place. Much harder to do that with strangers.
I like doing these panels but after a while God pressed on me that more needed to be done. Talking about racial reconciliation just wasn’t enough. I had no idea what God wanted me to do so I started praying specifically about it.
I asked God, “What else should we be doing during these divided times?”
The answer came fast. Watch movies about reconciliation.
Look, I have to admit, I love movies. LOVE THEM. So at first I just thought I was being lazy and wanting to do more of what I already love to do. But the longer I thought about the more legit the idea became—the more I believed it was from God.
Think about it. Hollywood is far from perfect when it comes to morality but they’ve done a pretty good job telling true stories of racial reconciliation.
This list leapt immediately to mind:
- Remember The Titans - Hidden Figures - The Blindside - 42 - Gran Torino - Finding Forrester - Race - Glory Road - Save the Last Dance - Woodlawn - Freedom Writers
These movies are wildly different from one another. Some are serious dramas, others are lighthearted, some are basically just about sports. But there are three elements that hold them all together.
- Shared Goals among diverse individuals
- Close Proximity over a long period of time
- Adversity forces them to rely on each other
It’s no secret these elements build trust. If you’ve ever been on a mission trip you’ve experienced it. You leave for the trip barely knowing your fellow missioners but you return BFF’s. How does this happen? Why does this happen? The purpose of a mission trip isn’t to make friends, it’s to transform a community with the power of the Gospel.
But friendship—which is the epitome of trust—is always the end result.
Why? Because all three elements of are elements are present.
Sharing the gospel is a shared goal.
The trip provides close proximity for a long period of time.
Going on mission inevitably creates adversity where people must rely on one another.
Facebook posts, panels, conferences, and sermons cannot do the hard work of racial reconciliation. They can help but they are fundamentally incapable of the heavy lifting necessitated by the long and beautiful work of genuine racial reconciliation.
My friends, Jeff Warren (a white pastor) and Bryan Carter (a black pastor) are working tirelessly for racial reconciliation, and they put it this way: “The Gospel moves at the speed of relationships.”
Think back to Remember the Titans. You know you loved that movie. At the start of the movie the racial tension is about to explode into violence. The city is on edge. The players are at each others’ throats.
Then the team goes to training camp.
The 3 Elements appear:
Shared Goal: learn to play as a team
Close Proximity: the coach makes black players room with white players
Adversity: football ain’t easy
Everything changes. The same kids who hate one another when they left for camp comeback singing together. Upon seeing this, one of the parents asks,
“What did they do up there? Brainwash them?"
Nope. The coach did something better. He moved the team through the four stages of forming unity within a group
Forming: He intentionally brought a diverse group of people together.
Storming: He intentionally recognized the differences within the group.
Norming: He intentionally celebrated the differences within the group.
Performing: He intentionally leveraged the differences within the group for a common good.
You don’t have to go on a foreign mission trip or attend training camp to experience this kind of unity with others. It can happen right where you are, whoever you are. You can do it individually by seeking one person out in your community who is racially different than you. Or you can encourage your church to partner with another church in your city to go on a retreat or mission together. Whatever you do doesn’t have to be big, just do something. And then get ready to experience the mercy of God in ways you can’t even imagine as your church moves from being to color blind to what Derwin Gray calls “color blessed”
Moving Beyond Racism to Battle Indifference
I think we're asking ourselves the wrong question concerning racism. The question that most often gets asked during times of racial tension is this: We look in the mirror and ask, Am I a racist? Do I hate the black community?
Most of us, unfortunately not all, but most, can answer this question with a resounding No!
But just answering No isn’t good enough because Jesus didn’t call us to not hate each other.
He didn’t say, “Don’t hate me with all your heart, soul, and mind. And don’t hate your neighbor.” He said, “Love me with all your heart, soul & mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” They will know us by our love, not our lack of hate; and definitely not by our silence.
I’ve heard it said that the opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.
The question isn’t, Do I hate black people? The question is, “Do my actions, friendships, and priorities affirm that I love black people?"
I know that's a high standard. It’s a standard I consistently fail to meet in my own strength. But this is what God calls us toward and will empower us to do, if only we’re brave enough to try.
Simply put, we need God to love. So let's fail at trying to love people rather than succeed at proving we don't hate them.
I personally think division is the ultimate tool that the Enemy uses in his attack against humanity. If you were him and you heard Jesus say, “The gates of Hell will not prevail against my Church” then you would know you’ve got to do something to separate the church. The only chance the Enemy has to defeat the Church is divide the Church.
Which the Enemy has done.
Sadly, the church is currently divided by race, age, denomination, and even socioeconomic class. According to Barna, 85% of pastors believe every church should strive towards racial diversity. The reality, however, is that only 18% of pastor s there to be more than one dominant ethnic group in their churches. report more than one dominant ethnic group in their church.
The Enemy isn’t afraid of a big church. The Enemy is afraid of a united church. Let’s give him something to be scared of.
The Book of Revelation tells us that at the end of time all the nations of the earthy will gather to gather to sing ONE song of praise to God. We are going to be together for eternity. We will all be family.
What wait? Why not start today?