I had not heard of Christian Community Development before January when I picked up the book Making Neighborhoods Whole (2013) by Wayne Gordon and Dr. John Perkins. After completing the book, I believe the eight principles that we are discussing on this blog have the potential to change the way we all see and do ministry.
The second principle in our series is reconciliation. Racial reconciliation is a hot topic these days. The Making Neighborhoods Whole book was written in 2013 but focuses this principle of reconciliation on the racial spectrum. With all that is going on in the United States in 2018 this principle of reconciliation, in my opinion, is as important as any of the other principles. I am an African-American male, and I have been all my life, which probably gives me a certain perspective on this principle. But I believe, and the authors state, that reconciliation is not a one-way street (66). We all need to participate in reconciliation no matter color, race, ethnicity or background; we all need to be reconciled with each other
Before I get too deep into this principle, I know that there are folks out there who believe that racism is not a thing anymore or at least not as bad as people make it out to be. To those people, I would like to say that in 2018 I was called the “n” word by an Anglo gentleman outside of a clothing store just because he believed that I shouldn’t be shopping at that store because of the color of my skin. Racism is alive and well in our country, in our states, in our cities, in our communities. And in our churches. In Making Neighborhoods Whole, the authors state, “While the Bible transcends culture and race, the church is still having a hard time living out the vision of unity in Christ” (64). The church should be where reconciliation starts. In 1960, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said on “Meet the Press,” “I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies, that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hour, in Christian America. I definitely think the Christian church should be integrated, and any church that stands against integration and that has a segregated body is standing against the spirit and the teachings of Jesus Christ, and it fails to be a true witness.” Here we are almost 60 years since Dr. King’s statement and it still rings mostly true. I believe that unless some real reconciliation efforts start we will be able to say the same thing in another 60 years.
If asked about reconciliation, many would say that they have done so because “my neighbor is Latino” or “I have three African Americans on my team at work,” but living in a community or working together does not necessarily reconcile people together as the authors of Making Neighborhoods Whole make clear (66). They do admit that it is a step in the right direction but just tolerating someone’s presence and being “friendly” does not mean we are living out this principle of reconciliation. Living out this principle means being humble, willing to hear, believe, and trust others even if what they share doesn’t line up with what we believe. “Reconciliation happens when people are open to listening to one another and to changing their attitudes and beliefs” (66). The ultimate “goal of reconciliation is not to persuade or be persuaded, but rather to understand and to be understood and respected” (67).
We have come to a point in society where we believe that in order to be reconciled with each other we have to convince the other person that we are right and they have to fully agree and come over to “our side.” That is a selfish and misguided ideal of this principle. It is very possible for my experiences to make one thing true and for your experience to be in opposition to mine and both of us be right. And under this principle of reconciliation, that’s not only okay but right.
The idea of reconciliation is a biblical one. We have all been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). God has given us the first step to reconciliation, the blood of Christ, which has broken down the wall of hostility between us and unified us (Ephesians 2:14). The next step is ours. Reconciliation takes work and we need to be willing to put in that work. I believe reconciliation can happen if we can each get to the point of knowing and understanding that we may not all agree and that we may not have all the answers, but we can listen and love through those disagreements and be willing to accept a truth that may not be our own experience. God has set the foundation of unity, and reconciliation is the path for us to get there.