Baby Steps Toward Reconciliation

By Pastor Darren Bennett

As we navigate together through these very difficult times there are many verses that come to mind. Scriptures that point to hope when all hope seems lost, Scriptures that point to healing when the pain of racism continues to rip the scab off of a deep wound. One verse that we believe truly speaks to the heart of this important issue and relays the call of every Christian is 2 Corinthians 5:18–19 (NIV), which says, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
I happen to be a biracial man (black and Italian) who has experienced the deep pain of racism. I’ve been called n-gger. I’ve been bullied for not looking like the other white kids in my neighborhood. I’ve had women literally clinch their purse at the sight of me walking their direction on the sidewalk. This is the sad reality of racial profiling and racism. This issue must be reconciled. We, the church, were given this ministry!
On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve also given 10 years of my life to law enforcement. My brother Shannon served 12 years in law enforcement. My older brother Joseph served 25 years in law enforcement. I share that to help you understand the unique position I stand in as relates to the current cultural climate we’re in.

The first thing I’d like to express is that racism is indeed alive and prevalent in this country and around the globe. Racism is a direct assault against the imago dei (Genesis 1:26-28). It is grotesque for anyone created in God’s image to be treated with low or no dignity. It is even more difficult to stomach when fellow law enforcement and civil servants, those called to protect and serve, are on the offensive side of this racial assault. And worst of all, it’s incredibly disheartening when the Church—not just the corporate body or different churches, but also when individual members of the body of Christ—stands silent or ignores this egregious assault against the imago dei.

So, what do we do about this? I’d like to give some honest, non-exhaustive steps to help us—at minimum—start the process of reconciliation.

When it comes to law enforcement . . .

I’d say we, the church and community must keep praying for them. All police officers aren’t bad! I can personally attest to that simple assertion. Yes, we have no doubt seen many miserable cases unfold that paint a clear picture of blatant racial assaults against black and brown people at the hands of law enforcement! But, please dear brothers/sister, consider that to be the exception and not the majority. Most law enforcement officers do not wake up in the morning looking to racially assault or assassinate a man or woman of color. Let’s not make the difficult task of law enforcement more daunting then it is. These men and women put their lives on the line daily. Yes, hold them accountable, but don’t dishonor their courageous call to protect and serve on account of the bad apples.

To my brothers and sisters in law enforcement . . .

I’d suggest more high level training on cultural diversity as well as de-escalation skills. Don’t assume all black and brown people are out to commit a crime or want to harm you simply because of our skin color.

To my white brothers and sisters . . .

Please don’t start an immediate debate with us (people of color) when we find ourselves enduring pain due to being triggered by racial injustice. The statement: “we need all the facts before we can speak about this” hurts way more then it helps. Please, be sensitive, be willing to listen and lament with us (Job 2:13), be willing to stand with us and advocate for us before you start to debate us.

Also, please understand that it is very exhausting to people of color when we have to explain over and over why we feel pain caused by triggers of racial injustice. Do your own research. Try to understand our culture, our history, our plight, our pain, but don’t keep making us re-explain the pain. And don’t assume we are angry at you or that we see you as guilty. We know this is a sin issue (Ephesians 6:12–13) that manifests itself in particular individuals. So, free yourselves of feeling guilty for something you didn’t do, but don’t sit back and do nothing! Seek wisdom, seek understanding, show empathy. Walk alongside us.

On our landing page about racial justice, you’ll find a resource list with books, podcasts, articles, and more to help you become educated and provide you with action steps for greater impact as a minister of reconciliation.

To the Church . . .

We should be the leading voice when it comes to these issues. Why? Because it’s a sin issue and we, the Church, war against sin. We don’t tuck our heads in the sand in silence. Let’s look to be more intentional and proactive instead of reactive. Let’s encourage people of every color to search their hearts to see if there are prejudices residing within (Psalm 139:23–24). Let’s encourage people of every color to repent should they struggle with racism and prejudice of any kind. Repentance is the vehicle that will bring true change. The message of the gospel calls for repentance. Let’s not shy away from preaching the gospel, but let’s not circumvent the part where we’re commanded to “act justly and to love mercy” as you “walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 NIV, emphasis added).

I want to leave you with this quote from The Gospel Coalition contributor Phillip Holmes: “We all should be uncomfortable about the injustice in our country. For many Christians, facing the reality that America still has a race problem is uncomfortable. Until we’re able to listen to the cries of black advocates, sympathize with black mothers, and express righteous anger over dead black bodies, we might remain comfortable—but it’s a poor substitute for the love to which we’ve been called.