One of my favorite passages of scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, particularly the part about God giving us the “ministry of reconciliation.” To me, that is central to the work of social justice. It is a mantle I have taken up, and carry with me. And it is what comforts me when I’m weary of how people have harmed each other over and over again, but feel the need to take a step forward anyway.
I once heard someone define justice as “God’s way of putting things right,” and I liked that. It makes the word both a noun and a verb, and I believe that’s how we need to treat it to make any real progress.
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 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. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)
These verses have rung loudly in my ears the past few days as we heard yet again about the tragic shooting of two African American men, compiled with the devastating addition of the attack on police officers in Dallas. Both are heartbreaking situations that never should have happened. But the question remains, what are we going to do about it?
I honestly think many people just don’t know what to do. It’s not that they don’t care, but they feel stuck in their response. Or maybe they feel conflicted in what to say, or how to react, or where to turn, or simply how not to offend. I’ve felt some of that myself, and I address it a bit here in this guest blog post.
So, if you can relate, I’d like to provide you with just a few resources that I hope will be helpful.
- The first, of course and as always, is to pray. My friend Latasha started a terrific organization called Be The Bridge, which promotes racial unity and reconciliation through conversations and the Church. I suggest looking through her resources and site. But her first piece of advice for anyone is to pray. Pray for the situation. Pray for your personal response. Most of us live in our own bubbles, complete with people who look and think like us. So, pray for opportunities to make new friends or have these conversations with old friends. I think these are requests God would love to honor.
- Another thing Latasha suggests is reading books by people who look and think different than you. Additionally, follow these kinds of people on social media, or go to the places they hang out.
- Continuing along these lines, here is a fantastic conversation by Latasha and IF:Gathering founder, Jennie Allen, that took place on Friday. I highly recommend this 45-minutes as its just an honest sit-down between two friends.
- This is a great article by Relevant Magazine for understanding the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
- Check out this article by Kristen Howerton, who is white, which explains the concept of “white privilege.”
- There are also many terrific books and movies as well. Two books I’ve read in the last year are The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander and Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. And I gotta say, the latter is one of the hardest and most beautiful books I’ve ever read. As far as movies, there are well-known ones like Life is Beautiful and American History X. Here are a bunch more, and it wouldn’t take much research to find others, or you can ask me for more. I have lots to catch up on in this area too, and have books piling up in my Audible Wish List.
- Pardon the bleeping, but this The Daily Show clip does make some good points while also bringing some humor to the situation. It’s always good to infuse some humor when you can.
There are lots and lots more, but if you need a starting place, hopefully this will provide you with one.
But here’s your disclaimer: I’m telling you now that this can be a messy process. I know that sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re getting outside your comfort zone, which you should in many aspects of life, just remind yourself that you’re doing it to become a better person and more educated. Most often, the people who don’t look like you will be really grateful that you’re making an effort to see life through their lens. And grace will be extended on both sides. Just make a new friend. You’ve done that before. You don’t have initially start with a race conversation. In fact, they might appreciate that too. 🙂
Sadly, I have seen bigotry in action. I have witnessed an actual segregated community south of Atlanta, complete with the literal “other side of the tracks.” I have heard friend’s stories of how they were discriminated against. And even if you missed these things, you’ve probably heard jokes that come at someone else’s expense. We cannot keep pretending these are ok. We cannot keep silent. This kind of harmful thinking often starts in small ways. And therefore, small actions can create change.
When you know these people, not just know of them, you should want to fight for them.
It’s hard work. It’s ugly work. It’s messy work. But it work that matters. And if you follow Christ, you have also been given the ministry of reconciliation. So, what are you going to do about it?
“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be… This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail
UPDATE on 7/12/16
I’ve also just watched these two online sermons from this past Sunday, and they’re additional great examples to watch about how the Church can address the issue.