Editor’s note: If you’ve ever visited our Staff page, you’ll know that Lanie is pursuing a Master’s in Christian apologetics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She also writes and edits for Be the Bridge, a nonprofit that provides resources for Christians pursuing racial unity in their churches and communities.
This series was first published exclusively via the Faithfully Magazine newsletter. Each of the six parts, in addition to the introduction, were made available on faithfullymagazine.com and appear as they did in the newsletter, unless specifically noted. Jump to the bottom to access other parts of this series.
In 2013, my fiancé (now my husband) and I packed our bags for a summer with World Relief, an organization that offers refugee and immigration services in the United States.
I knew very little about immigration policies and procedures going into my internship with World Relief, and I admit I made mistakes that summer out of ignorance.
At the time, we did not view our decision to work at World Relief through the lens of politics but through the lens of the gospel.
While at dinner a couple of months ago, we reflected on that summer as we discussed how the refugee crisis has become so politicized. We received so much prayerful and financial support from evangelical brothers and sisters that summer, which made it possible to work with World Relief.
We wondered if that support would vary if we had gone this year, given the uptick of misinformation and fear surrounding immigration policies and procedures since President Trump’s campaign and election.
I do not deny that such issues are complex when it comes to national security, and I am the least likely “expert” on such matters. But the Christian command is clear: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).
This is not simply an outdated command of the old covenant. Jesus incarnationally followed this command and taught his disciples to do the same.
Conversations surrounding the “other,” whoever the other might be in our various contexts, have become so politically charged. Satan has hijacked and politicized racial reconciliation, which is God’s intent for His church. Reconciliation of any sort is, first and foremost, God’s idea and is woven into the fabric of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Racial reconciliation is a gospel component and a biblical issue. There is a vertical and horizontal component to reconciliation. The gospel includes both reconciliation between God and people as well as reconciliation between one another.
Referring to Christian regeneration, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
With much persevering prayer, we must take back what the Enemy stole from us in politicizing Christ’s command to love our neighbors.
Yes, when we begin to love our neighbors as Scripture commands, we cannot help but consider how politics affects our neighbors. But the command to love and be reconciled to our neighbors is not, first and foremost, political. It is biblical.
Racial reconciliation is a fruit of faithfulness. It is certainly not a cause for salvation, lest we adopt a social gospel, but it is certainly an effect of salvation.
However, love for our neighbors calls us into the political arena.
I love what Jenny Yang, SVP of advocacy and policy for World Relief, had to say about this at 2017 The Justice Conference:
“There is a difference between being political and being partisan. I believe we are called to be political, but we are not called to be partisan. The difference is that being political is engaging in the systems and structures that create the way we perform as a society, but being partisan means that we have wedded ourselves to one political party, saying that they have all of the answers to our societal problems, which is not the case.”
If Christ summed up all of God’s commandments in loving God with our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves, that means I must think through how I can love my neighbor, even in my engagement with politics.
Things get sticky at this point. Suddenly, politics are no longer rigidly partisan when I consider what benefits others outside myself.
As believers, a huge step of racial reconciliation is admitting this: politics are complex. Can we just “amen” together on that?
Instead of removing political conversations from the church, I would love to see members of churches openly discuss their political differences and work toward “unity of mind,” as 1 Peter 3:8 says, on how the gospel informs our politics.
Only in a Christian utopia would we always agree politically. But we can at least start with what we know, and we know that racial reconciliation is a gospel issue.
With the shared understanding that Scripture does not perfectly translate into policy, we can then listen to and empathize with one another’s positions, while holding fast to the conviction that racial reconciliation is God’s agenda rather than man’s.
Some questions to consider…
- Are you prone to view racial reconciliation through the lens of partisan politics before the gospel? If so, why
- Do you sense that the Enemy has hijacked and politicized racial reconciliation? How do you think you might bring conversations back to the Bible when others refuse to discuss issues they deem “political?”
- What do you think about Jenny Yang’s statement that the church is called to be political without being partisan? Is this distinction helpful for you?
- How can you begin or continue conversations and action steps in your church and community to engage in politics and dismantle systems of oppression?
Share your responses with us using the hashtag #FMfieldnotes!
Field Notes on Racial Reconciliation:
- #FMFieldNotes: Introducing ‘Field Notes on Racial Reconciliation’ Series
- #FMFieldNotes 1: Confronting Our Sins of Racism, Prejudice and Bias
- #FMFieldNotes 2: Doing Our History Homework
- #FMFieldNotes 3: Listening and Learning from People of Other Ethnicities
- #FMFieldNotes 4: Embracing Racial Reconciliation as a Gospel Issue
- #FMFieldNotes 5: Resisting a False Dilemma Between Systemic Problems and Poor Choices
- #FMFieldNotes Part 6: Starting or Joining the Conversation of Race
For early access to future exclusive newsletter series and content, be sure to enter your email address in the form below.