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Live Justly for Lent: Racial Reconciliation

Editor's note: This is the first post in our Live Justly for Lent series. As we follow our suffering Lord to the cross, how can His example empower us to engage with a suffering world? We hope that the ideas for practical Lenten justice activities in these posts will help us to act justly, love sacrificially, and rejoice in the triumph of God’s justice in Jesus at Easter. Instead of giving something up for Lent this year, which of these activities will you take up? To make sure that you see all these posts, subscribe to our biweekly Do Justice digest.


"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6)

It took the supernatural power of God in the resurrected life of Jesus Christ to secure forgiveness for human sin. The same power that rose Jesus from the grave and caused his resurrection is at work in the surrendered hearts of the believers who live for racial healing and justice in our world today. Lent is about changing habits. Let’s practice a new heart examination for Jesus before Easter by becoming self-aware and then starting a new habit that may help build the bridge toward racial reconciliation for Christ.

Racial tolerance is the ability to respect those of a race that is different from our own. It falls short of the biblical command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Yet it is a first step in helping people from diverse cultures to build bridges of respect and mutual cooperation with one another. The following questions involve every-day encounters between people of different races that can either build up or tear down racial barriers. Take a moment to do an honest assessment of yourself, so that we may move from where we are right now to where we should be based on God’s word.

  • Do you see all people of a particular race as all “looking alike”?
  • Are you antagonistic or fearful when you encounter or see persons of a different race whom you do not know?
  • When you hear of a news story about a crime that was committed, without seeing the face of the suspect, do you assume that the criminal is a person of color?
  • When you are looking for employees for your own business or place of work, do you automatically seek to hire people who look like you?
  • When you have a problem or misunderstanding with a person of a particular race, do you assume that you have a problem with all persons of the same race?
  • If you are a person of color, do you assume that all White Americans are racist?

The question is how do we get there from here? How do we get to holistic biblical reconciliation? It does not begin with a program. It begins with assuming the same “attitude… as that of Christ, who humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross” (Philippians 2:8).  An attitude of willful surrender allows the unlimited power of God to work in the daily life of each believer. We get there from here by repenting, praising, worshiping, preaching, teaching, and singing about Christ, and not by acting in our own strength. We begin by confessing that even our faith and our obedience to God is made possible “not by might, nor by power, but by God’s Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).

To follow Christ is to do what Christ did, to lovingly embrace all people as our brothers and sisters. Christ did this through his example, not just through his words. [1]

To begin to make biblical reconciliation an everyday reality this Lent, here are 5 suggestions to focus your attention on things you can do to strengthen your personal cultural competency:

  1. Read a book about a culture other than your own.
  2. Refuse to laugh at an “ethnic” joke you are told.
  3. Make a friend from another culture.
  4. Invite people from another culture to visit you in your home.
  5. Watch a movie or documentary about another culture.

The world will not believe that Jesus is the answer just because we go to church, do religious things, listen to religious music, spend time with religious people, carry Bibles, or wear religious symbols, like crosses, “try God,” or “Jesus saves” emblems.

These are important parts of our biblical witness. But they are not sufficient to convince an unbelieving world that regularly sees symbols, emblems, and songs connected to sports and cultural events.

The world will only know that we belong to God, and have “been with Jesus” because we are thinking, acting, and living ‘outside the box’ of race, culture, and all other designations, like class, gender, generation, or education, in which we have become so accustomed to living. It is only the power of God, working within our surrendered hearts and minds, with the Holy Spirit of God leading and guiding us, that enables us to demonstrate to an unbelieving world that Jesus alone is the answer.

Will you discover a new discipline this season of Lent and become more culturally competent? Everyone smiles in the same language.

[1] Personal Transformation Through Reconciliation: Becoming An Agent of Racial Healing and Justice, Barbara Williams-Skinner, 2001.

[Image: Flickr user Hernan Pinera]


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