If racial reconciliation could be legislated by laws, Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would have reconciled Americans in the 19th century. If racial reconciliation could be achieved by social justice, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream would have become a reality in the 20th century. If racial reconciliation could be resolved by politics, Barack Obama would have united Americans under his presidency.
Racial reconciliation cannot be legislated by laws, promoted by protests, or enacted by elections. Yet our conversations about racial reconciliation are almost always political. We have elevated tertiary issues into primary issues. We have moved the pulpit into political squares. Pastors have become politicians. Racial reconciliation has become a political position—that is why Black evangelicals who pursue racial reconciliation often produce racial division.
A Black evangelical recently said to me that I was an obstacle to racial reconciliation. She suggested that my position against Black Lives Matter has made me friendly to racist, conservative, White evangelicals. That was all news to me, especially since Black Lives Matter’s sympathies to Black supremacy are unhelpful to racial reconciliation. Nevertheless, in their man-centered, political pursuit for racial reconciliation, some Black evangelicals produce division by calling other Black evangelicals like me Uncle Tom and White evangelicals racists.
Some prominent Black evangelicals are even “divorcing from white evangelicalism” and openly complaining about racial integration in churches because some White evangelicals have different political beliefs than they do. Is that what an effort toward racial reconciliation looks like?
White evangelicals also bear a large share of responsibility for this division. For many of them, conservatism is Christianity, and patriotism is piety. They burn with anger when NFL players disrespect their precious flags. They talk more about making their nations great again than making their nations glad in God.
Other White evangelicals, however, are prone to virtue signalling and pandering to Black evangelicals. In so many grandstanding words about their want for racial reconciliation, they boast to Black evangelicals about just how much more loving they are compared to other White evangelicals because of their political beliefs. They are quick to protest White supremacy but silent on Black supremacy. They are politically correct and theological cowards. They protest one evil but protect the other. That is a recipe for racial division, not racial reconciliation.
If racial reconciliation could be resolved by politics, the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Church would have been drastically different. The apostle Paul did not address Roman Supremacy or Roman Privilege in his letter to the Ephesians. He made no mention of Jewish suffering under Caesar. In other words, the apostle Paul did not believe that racial reconciliation could be resolved by politics. He believed that Christ was responsible for racial reconciliation, not Caesar. In fact, He declared that Christ had already achieved racial reconciliation:
“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel…But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:11-16)
Racial reconciliation happened on the cross when Jesus reconciled Jewish and Gentile sinners to God. Racial reconciliation happened when Jesus made Jews and Gentiles, Black people and White people, and all other racial groups one in himself when he became our representative and identity on the cross. What Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. could not do for Americans, Christ did for the world 2,000 years ago. Jesus has already accomplished racial reconciliation, and it’s even better than we could have ever hoped for. Those of us who trust in him are not merely reconciled to each other, we are also reconciled to God.
We should hate injustice, love good, and establish justice. Like William Wilberforce and Francis J. Grimké, we must do whatever is in our capacity to establish justice. However, we must not lose sight of the gospel. Real racial reconciliation isn’t political, it’s theological. We evangelicals are already reconciled to each other in Christ. We just have to remember that and live like it.
Our reconciliation to each other will be perfected in Heaven when a great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, stand in worship before our Lord Jesus Christ. But until then, we must live in light of our reconciliation to each other in all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, and eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.