I’ve given most of my life to the cause of reconciliation, fighting the battle in the trenches and working with community development organizations. We developed the three Rs – relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution – to offer a process to help communities work together to balance some of the inequities of life in America. By God’s grace, much good work has been done, and I’m humbled to have been a part of it.
But as I come closer to the end of my journey, I am aware that community development can only take us so far – because this is a gospel issue. The problem of reconciliation in our country and in our churches 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. And it requires that we make some uncomfortable confessions. G. K. Chesterton said, “It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.” I believe this statement can be applied to the lack of reconciliation within the church today.
The problem is that there is a gaping hole in our gospel. We have preached a gospel that leaves us believing that we can be reconciled to God but not reconciled to our Christian brothers and sisters who don’t look like us – brothers and sisters with whom we are, in fact, one blood.
The apostle John talks about that: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). Yet from our early days as a country we adopted the practice of slavery and demonized the slave as inferior, subhuman, and deserving of exploitation. For this wicked system of slavery to survive there had to be distinctions made between normal folks and this new breed of people that would be treated like animals. This is where the idea of race came into play.
The problem is that there is a gaping hole in our gospel.
The truth is that there is no black race – and there is no white race. So the idea of “racial reconciliation” is a false idea. It’s a lie. It implies that there is more than one race. This is absolutely false. God created only one race – the human race.
We’re at a unique moment in our history. We’ve come through – and in many ways are in the midst of – great upheaval. The soul of our nation has been laid bare. We have only to look at the signs of the times to realize that the church may not have long to get this right. We may not have much time left to offer the world a glimpse of this unity that will point the eyes of the watching world to the power of our great God. Yes, there’s an urgency. Time is running out … for all of us. But while we still have time, let’s reflect on the heart of Jesus, who prayed that his church might one day be one.
Dr. John M. Perkins, born in 1930 to Mississippi sharecroppers, is a pastor, author, and civil rights activist. This article is taken from his new book, One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race, with Karen Waddles (Moody, 2018). Used by permission.
Photograph courtesy of Moody Publishers. Used by permission.