Editor’s note: In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, tristatevoice.com presents this guest commentary focused on racial reconciliation.
By Rev. Frank Santora
For anyone paying attention to politics these days, it’s no great revelation to say that we are a deeply divided nation, especially regarding issues touching on race. While we have made significant progress in some areas, there remains much to be done.
As Christians, God has given us a mission–the “Ministry of Reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). And while it’s true that the Apostle Paul wrote this specifically regarding the Great Commission, to reconcile lost humanity back to their Creator, I believe the core principle also applies to our personal responsibility to be proactive in healing America’s wounds caused by racism.
Persistent racism has divided us as a nation, and divided our cities and families; even the Church has suffered disunity. We’ve fallen into the trap of demonizing one another, turning a blind eye to injustice, and have placed political affiliation above our brotherhood in Christ. Jesus declared, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand” Matthew 12:25. It’s a warning we must not take lightly.
By now it must be obvious that real answers cannot be found in any political agenda, whether Republican or Democrat. Racism is at its core, a spiritual issue; real answers will only be found in walking out the Word of God in our daily lives. And clearly, we must start with healing the House of God before we can hope to be effective representatives of Christ to a broken world.
Love is the brand-mark of a true Christian: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:35. Indeed, how could we expect our message of Christ’s love for sinners to be received, if we can’t even demonstrate love for one another? How could we expect them to place their trust in God’s forgiveness and grace, if we can’t extend it to one another? How could we expect to have a public voice in healing the world’s racial divide, if Sunday morning remains the most segregated hour in America?
Christian love is more than a warm, fuzzy feeling, more than kind words…it’s an action. We can recognize Jesus loves us, not because He said so, but because He showed us by dying on a cross to rescue us. He suffered unjust torment to make a personal and proactive demonstration of His love.
As ministers of reconciliation, we must act in accordance with Christ’s example. I challenge you to take racism out of the abstract, political realm, and make a personal and proactive demonstration of your Christian love for one another today. Here’s how you get started:
Get a New Perspective
Our perspective in life is shaped by our upbringing, education, and personal experiences, both good and bad. It filters how we interpret what happens around us today. In a very real sense, we are victims of our own subconscious perspective, unless we become intentional about getting a new perspective.
We can no longer simply take what a thought leader has to say on a matter as the unadulterated truth. We must personally make an effort to separate fact from fiction, study history, and understand what has happened that has been ignored. Sift through the political spin and the leveraged, compromised agendas. Find out why others hold the perspectives that they do. No one develops racist ideas in a vacuum; there are wounds that have been inflicted upon our brothers in Christ that have been allowed to fester. The “ministry of reconciliation” will begin in the Church when we get a new perspective.
Diversify Your Life
Let’s get personal for a minute. Who do you love that has a different skin color than you? Who do you have over to your house for dinner, pray with, or play with…that has a different skin color than you? In short, who have you allowed access to your life?
Segregation may have legally come to an end in America when the Jim Crow laws were abolished in 1964, but are they still alive in your church, your home, or in your personal relationships? In order to have any hope of healing the racial divide in our nation, we must realize the fact that we are a lot more alike than we are different. And that will only happen when we develop relationships outside of our own skin color.
I believe it will take more than simply changing the laws to shake racism from our society, and probably more than a little time. But we can help move the process along by getting better informed, and creating deeper and more numerous social bonds with people who look different from us. These simple actions of ownership are steps that allow us to heed our responsibility as followers of Christ to be at the forefront of the ministry of reconciliation.
Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. He hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” and has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms. He serves as an Advisory Team member of “Let’s Talk,” a conversation-based approach to racial reconciliation within the Church, where multi-cultural Christian leaders from across the U.S. will join together for monthly zoom calls to engage in real dialogue, build relationships and find creative solutions. Others can learn more and sign up to join at www.letstalklive.org.
Photo: Rev. Frank Santora (Michele Roman Photography)