Dr. John Perkins is an eighty-seven year old marvel. He’s the kind of person many men and women aspire to be. Fueled by conviction over the gospel, he has dedicated himself to a lifetime of messy, faithful, Christ-centered racial reconciliation. In his final book, One Blood, Dr. Perkins gives the Church a bold exhortation to pursue racial reconciliation.
The thesis is centered around reconciliation as a two-part transformation: reconciliation of humanity with God and reconciliation between of people, one with another. Consider Paul’s second letter to Corinth,
“God… reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18)
Dr. Perkins comments that reconciliation is:
“Much too big to be wrestled to the ground by plans that begin in the minds of men. This is a God-sized problem. It is one that only the Church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can heal. It requires the quality of love that only our Savior can provide”
This is very humbling for a generation that thinks, with enough people, enough effort, and means we can conquer anything. While Perkins affirms reconciliation efforts apart from the gospel are important; he insists it is ultimately insufficient.
Consider someone who is “the other” in your life, your circles, or even your sphere of influence? Our abilities are not enough to overcome our odds with others, nor are they enough to face down the odds in our own heart. We need a new heart, new abilities. We need an ultimate love that overflows into all facets around us, outpouring in our words and deeds specifically for the other.
In order to address this God-sized problem, we must draw on God-sized love. This requires faith and presence in people’s lives. Both have to be present in order to press into issues and implications of racial injustice. Be it social or economic injustice, prejudice, bias, mass incarceration that flow from the American historical context with racism.
Paul highlights throughout Ephesians 2 that our unity with God and the effect of our lives being transformed should serve as the model of reconciliation for the world around us. We should be a people who have consistency in the love that has been given to us, for us, and compelling us to give to those around us, specifically those who may not look like us.
Perkins writes, “Biblical reconciliation is the removal of tension between parties and the restoration of loving relationship.” We see this first as Christian’s first being reconciled to Jesus through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. We then model that with a mission of reconciliation to God and to each other. Grafted in together into a vibrant, diverse, and unified body, in Christ. We have received such remarkable love, unearned, and disproportionate to our effort. Let’s share this love across all racial and color lines.
How to get started with this work
First, we can’t love those far from us if we don’t love those close to us. What is the next step for you in loving your brothers and sisters? That’s not immediate nuclear family, but the eternal family of God, the church. Where can you model Christ’s love in word and deed? Who around needs you, needs the gospel, and needs help and ultimate hope? How can you be faithful to their need?
Second, love across racial lines by immersing yourself in relationship. Where can you pursue neighbors, friends, coworkers, people in relational proximity? City Life offers natural spaces for these relationships through our Mercy Ministries. Ask a City Group leader about your mercy ministry. Join in to show mercy, love, and build relationships across racial lines. Ask questions, listen well, and create space for real love.
Consider those who live near you. What are their concerns? What are their burdens? Who is the other in your midst? Oh, that we would be a people like the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:7, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Learn more about the history of racism in Austin through Measure Austin.
May our church increasingly reflect the hope of Revelation 7:9–10, a picture of heaven where every tribe, every tongue and every language is gathered around the throne of God, worshiping and singing, “salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb” (NIV). While this is a future vision, we can bring some of the future into the present by loving those who are different from us, and holding up Christ in our differences.