"We've been looking in all of the wrong places for help in fighting this battle for reconciliation. We've sought help from social service agencies and government programs. But this is something that requires divine power.”- John M. Perkins
"We fail to embrace a oneness perspective rooted in kingdom theology, though, unless we, like Joshua, surrender to the truth that God’s kingdom is not here to take sides. God’s kingdom is not black. God’s kingdom is not white. God’s kingdom is not Hispanic. Nor is it Asian, Middle Eastern, or Indian. God did not come to take sides. God came to take over."
- Tony Evans
It wasn’t a simple stumble. What happened in the Garden of Eden couldn’t be resolved by crouching behind a bush; it changed everything. Adam and Eve were not able to dust themselves off and keep going. They could only hide. And then, they heard it. “Where are you?” came the voice of God.
No, it wasn’t a simple stumble. It was the greatest fall in history and one that ripples out into every moment of every day, in every life. Leaves turn brown now. Hurricanes decimate entire communities. Our bodies decay. We fight and gloat and believe we are better than others.
What happened in that garden was a cosmic fall of epic proportions. And yet, from that tragedy came an unspeakable gift — the knowledge that God is a God of outstretched arms, longing to be reconciled with His people and, in fact, willing to do everything to make that happen. The Bible tells us God Himself clothed Adam and Eve. And thousands of years later, God himself would initiate the ultimate act of reconciliation with a broken people by going to the cross for them — for us. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
God’s reconciling power and holy nature continue to fix our world today. 2 Corinthians 5:20 tells us that Christians are part of God’s work of reconciliation: “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.”
We all understand what it means to be forgiven. We know reconciliation is one of the most powerful tools in our toolbox. And yet, few of us live embracing the reality of true reconciliation — reconciliation with God — which has been won by Christ Jesus for those found in him. When we embrace this spiritual reconciliation, we can pursue relational reconciliation with others. And that looks like stumbling our way toward living united with those who think and look differently than we do. “Therefore welcome one another, just as Christ also welcomed you, to the glory of God” (Rom 15:7).
This is especially true as the church has been on high alert over issues of racial reconciliation over the past 16 months since the murder of George Floyd. But what if we approached racial reconciliation as though it were just one of a countless number of ways God wants us reconciled to Himself and to each other? Let me share three truths about reconciliation that can help us.
We are already reconciled beyond what we can imagine
Many of us have a situational view of Jesus — He is with us in the intimate and personal parts of our lives and walks with us as a friend. But true reconciliation of any kind necessitates not a situational Jesus, but a cosmic Jesus — a God who is over the universe and the heavens. It requires a huge Jesus who is over all and in control of all.
When we dismiss or ignore efforts of reconciliation, it’s because we have too small a view of God. We’ve created a bootleg version of God who only cares about doctrine. But a big and biblical view of God shows us how God wants our doctrine lived out. Far too often, a condensed version of the Gospel has led to a crusty vision of God’s comprehensive and cosmic redemption.
Our Gospel of grace involves more — not less! — than salvation, forgiveness of sin, and new life in Christ. The true Gospel message includes the message of the risen man from Galilee who said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Our big God and his big Gospel mean he has reconciled all disciples of Jesus, together, to himself. It’s not just God and Doug. It’s God and Doug and Connor and Ayesha and Ming and Jose and Vladimir and brothers and sisters to the ends of the earth.
He has already brought us into His one family.
In Christ, we are one (Rom. 12:5). God has reconciled us together, making “the two groups one” and “destroy[ing] the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility ...” (Eph. 2:14). In Christ, there is no more separation or hostility between Gentiles or Jews, white or black, man or woman. We are all reconciled together. Racial reconciliation begins with acting like we are already reconciled — because, in Christ, we are!
Reconciliation comes after a confrontation
Few of us enjoy confrontation. Sometimes we want to run away from it. However, a glance at the God of the Bible tells us that our God never ran from confrontation. He took every opportunity to teach his people lessons they needed to hear. Often and sadly, people run away from confrontation but Jesus ran toward justice and righteousness. He ran toward love of others and sacrificial living, even if it meant pointing a finger at those who were living antithetically to the Gospel.
If true reconciliation is to happen, authentic and loving confrontation must happen as well. We must be willing to stand up to what’s wrong and speak out for the powerless and marginalized. If point one is true and we’re already reconciled in God’s family, then, when we have stern disagreements and vehemently disagree on issues, we can rightly deal with the matter. The family bond will not dissolve. Also, Scripture tells us there is a season to be angry (but do not sin). Confronting and exposing racism or bias leads to greater clarity about both our corporate call as Jesus’s bride and how we can find true reconciliation.
Christians make the best reconcilers
Too many of us engage in bootleg attempts at reconciliation. We hem and haw, debating about why some are more powerful while others aren’t; we justify our prejudices or we deny them. But what really happens is we forget that, as Christians, we possess the most powerful tool needed for reconciliation.
What we have is the cosmic punch of Jesus’s death on the cross bearing our sin because of his life. Once we understand the power of what Jesus did to reconcile all to Himself and to each other, it leaves us speechless. Awe and gratitude stop our arguing, and we begin to live differently. Our lives, actions, and words become increasingly interesting to a watching world as we develop friendships with people completely unlike us in worldview, skin tone, politics, family origin, preferences, or age.
God’s longsuffering with us has gone on for millennia. Generation after generation, He continues to form a people who will look more like Him. It’s taking a long, long time. This isn’t frying pan work; it’s a slow simmer.
As Christians, we too must have a “crockpot vision,” as I like to call it. Like God with us, we must be committed to the long haul of community, love, and reconciliation. When times get hard, we cannot flee; instead, we must stand rooted in our commitment to those around us.
In our work of reconciliation, we can foster unity through acts of fellowship and service. Cookouts, book bag drives, invitations to dinner, redoing a basketball court, babysitting, even simply sitting on the front step talking with a neighbor — these and any number of things help us demonstrate we’re here, committed to love and reconciliation in Christ, as long as it takes. We follow Jesus, so we follow His ways.
Remember our God of outstretched arms in that garden many years ago? The hard work of racial reconciliation requires us, like him, to embrace the reality of true reconciliation, grab hold of healthy confrontation when necessary, and live lives of faithfulness that point to Jesus, the world’s greatest reconciler.
Dr. Doug Logan Jr. is an associate director for Acts 29 and has been in urban ministry for nearly 25 years. He serves as the president of Grimké Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, where he also serves as the dean of the Grimké School of Urban Ministry. He serves as the pastor for church planting at Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia, and formerly served as senior pastor of Epiphany Fellowship Camden in New Jersey, a church founded under his leadership in 2011. He is the author of On the Block: Developing a Biblical Picture for Missional Engagement. Doug and his wife, Angel, have been married since 1996 and have three adult sons and three grandchildren.