“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (ESV)
To this point, 2016 has brought about a series of tragic events--most notably, the videotaped deaths of African-Americans at the hands of policemen, the unjustified murders of Dallas and Baton Rouge police officers, and the horrific attack on members of the LGBT community in an Orlando nightclub--all of which should cause lament within the entire Body of Christ in America.
These tragic event are also an opportunity like never before for the Church to embody and extend the love, reconciliation, and justice of the Kingdom of God.
The recent deaths of African-Americans Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile of Saint Paul, Minnesota hit close to home within my own soul. I have been a target of racial profiling on a number of occasions. I have been pulled over by police officers, held for significant periods of time, and yelled and cussed at for no other reason besides being Black.
These moments wounded my heart and reminded me of the challenge of being Black in the United States of America and within the unbiblical social matrix of racism it has created. So, when I see a graphic video of an African-American male being shot and killed by policemen in situations where White males are simply apprehended and taken into custody, it wounds my heart.
The deaths of Dallas and Baton Rouge police officers also wounds my heart. My wife has relatives who are members of the Dallas Police Department. I also have friends who are police officers. On many occasions, policemen have been a positive force in my life. Depicting, verbalizing, promoting or carrying out the murder of police officers is in no way a justifiable response to the need for police reform in urban communities and within the larger criminal justice system as it relates to African-Americans.
The police brutality we are witnessing boils down to the inability of some to see Black bodies as made in the image of God, a reality that wounds my heart. Not only is this painful reality shown in the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police officers, but also in Black-on-Black homicides in cities like Chicago, Camden, New Jersey and Memphis, Tennessee. It also shows up in the inordinate impact that abortion - Blacks account for approximately 36% of all abortions in America - has on African-Americans within this nation. The sin of racism has been so damaging to our society that there are even African-Americans who struggle to see their own Black bodies as made in the image of God.
Followers of Christ Must Act
I am wounded by this reality, and my Christian faith calls me to action. This is where reconciliation becomes the Christ-centered framework for how I must live in this upside down, broken, sinful, and unjust world.
Reconciliation is presented in Scripture as the transformative result and ongoing force of Christ coming into our world. Salvation, deliverance, liberation, righteousness, justification, and justice are all elements of the reconciling work of God through Jesus Christ. Reconciliation is not just something that God has done through Christ, but something that God desires to continue doing through Christ’s followers today.
Reconciliation as a supernatural force bringing about transformation in the natural world is how the Kingdom of God comes to bear upon injustice, dysfunction, division and inequality. As Christ followers, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. The ministry of reconciliation can show up as a nonviolent and strategic weapon of transformation as it did during the Civil Rights Movement. The ministry of reconciliation is taking the Church to the streets so that the lost are found, the hurting are helped, and the oppressed are liberated.
We may be wounded by the crisis in our nation, but we must at least function as wounded reconcilers. Wounds are caused by events, but reconciliation should be our daily calling. This moment calls for a reconciling church which puts the Kingdom of God before a captivity to hyper nationalism.
Judging by comments made on social media, too many Christians, fueled by cable news and radio shock jocks, seem more committed to hyper nationalism than to citizenship within the Kingdom of God.
The life of the reconciler on behalf of the Kingdom of God is one of love, humility, listening, forgiveness, generosity, truth-seeking, and hope. We ought to pray for and make room for more friendships with people who aren’t of our same political ideology and upbringing. We must become a bridge for police officers and members of the urban community to listen to each other, break bread together, and form lasting relationships. We must open up our church buildings as spaces for reconciliation to take place, life on life.
Those that are just living as the Wounded Ones will unintentionally pour gasoline on the fire that currently has our nation aflame in crisis and division. Those that are committed to the life of the Reconciler, will participate in the Kingdom of God, showing up in places where it’s so needed right now.
Pastor Efrem Smith is the President and CEO of World Impact an urban missions, church planting, and leadership development organization. He is also a Teaching Pastor at Bayside Midtown Church in Sacramento, California. He is the author of the books, “Raising-up Young Heroes”, “The Hip Hop Church”, “Jump”, and “The Post-Black and Post-White Church.”
Efrem is married to Donecia and has two daughters, Jaeda and Mireya. He and his family reside in the Bay Area of Northern California.