In high school, some friends and I participated in a small group called “God Chasers”. Mrs. Lisa Hargrove-Murphy led the group. She reinforced the truths my parents and family had poured into me. During that time I sensed God calling me to be a bridge between nations. Naturally, I pursued foreign language. I thought I would serve the government in the area of foreign diplomacy.
But more recently, I have come to realize that God’s plans for my life are much different than what I originally anticipated. When I began serving full-time in ministry about four years ago, God reminded me of my calling once more. I am called to serve as a bridge between nations. This time I saw that there was, and still is, critical and Kingdom-building work for me to engage in right here at home.
A Personal Connection
The current global pandemic has created an international pause. This has drawn national attention to the continuation of brutal murders of women and men of color across this country. The hustle and bustle of “normal” life look different now. And the atrocities happening almost everywhere have hit home. This became true for me in a real way with the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. His killing took place where I was born—Brunswick, Georgia. I grew up about an hour away, and my Dad still travels through the city almost every day for work. My family’s connection to Brunswick made this personal.
At first, I felt numb. I was not sure how to even begin processing my emotions. Numerous texts poured in asking how I was doing and what I was feeling, but I wasn’t exactly sure. It was like the long and labored inhale right before a child is finally able to release a gut-wrenching cry. Now I can say that my heart is utterly shattered. Before I can even begin to imagine the pieces being picked up and reassembled like a puzzle, another national killing, assault, or personal experience batters my wounded heart once more.
You ask, "What now?" As a Black woman and a follower of Jesus Christ, I want to live out my calling to serve as a bridge between nations here in the US. I feel called to support all women in the process of understanding and intentionally pursuing racial reconciliation in the most personal ways. It is critical to recognize that this fight is not between Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and White people, but against a deadly threat to us all: sin.
God and His Word are the most trustworthy authority we can lean on for the context around racial reconciliation. We can look at the very heart of the Gospel and find what God’s perspective is on this. In 2 Corinthians 5:17–21, we learn some key truths related to this topic:
- Christ makes all of His people new creations in Him. Our hearts, thoughts, desires, and perspectives are different after we encounter Jesus.
- Jesus reconciled us to God through willingly suffering and dying for us. Our broken relationship with God was restored by the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and through His resurrection three days later.
- Jesus died for us knowing that sin was ravaging our hearts and minds. Even though we did not deserve it, Jesus granted us His love, grace, righteousness, and mercy by becoming sin in our place (v. 21).
- The message of reconciliation has been given to us by Jesus, and we are His ambassadors and representatives on Earth. We are commanded to follow the example of Jesus in the way we treat our sisters and brothers in Christ. We also do this by bringing the Gospel message to those who do not yet know Him!
At the core of biblical reconciliation is the relentless love of God and the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross to pay the price for our sins (Romans 5:8). This love and sacrifice restored the broken relationship between God and His people. Believers in Jesus Christ are called to pursue a ministry in which we also seek out and build relationships with others, rooted in the hope of the Gospel. You may be wondering: How does this specifically relate to racial reconciliation?
Racial Reconciliation and Ministry
In her New York Times and USA Today bestselling book Be the Bridge, diversity expert and unity champion Latasha Morrison states:
“The truth is that each ethnicity reflects a unique aspect of God’s image. No one tribe or group of people can adequately display the fullness of God. The truth is that it takes every tribe, tongue, and nation to reflect the image of God in his fullness. The truth is that race is a social construct, one that has divided and set one group over the other from the earliest days of humanity. The Christian construct, though, dismantles this way of thinking and seeks to reunite us under a common banner of love and fellowship.”
As believers and followers of Jesus, we are all new creations, fashioned in God’s very image. Our value and worth come from who God has created us to be in Him. The church itself is made new, transformed into ministers of the Gospel to all people. In 1 Corinthians 12:12–27, we see that we are one body with many members and that unity in Jesus welcomes diversity.
An Opportunity for Growth
We have an opportunity to change our old ways of thinking, believing, and acting to become more and more like Jesus (Genesis 1:27, 2 Corinthians 5:17). This is especially applicable to the way we view others. There is so much intentional and beautiful diversity represented in who we are as believers. Morrison goes on to say, “In the love of the family of God, we must become color brave, color caring, color honoring, and not color blind. We have to recognize the image of God in one another. We have to love despite, and even because of, our differences.”
For the Black community, in particular, one of the most frustrating realities in the fight for racial justice is that we exist under a system that not long ago recognized enslaved Africans as property comparable to a herd of cattle and less than human. Even now, in 2020, historically marginalized communities of color experience the lingering effects of diminished humanity. The reality is that BIPOC at large have failed to be systemically recognized for hundreds of years.
Hope in Jesus Alone
The most important truth is that there is hope in Jesus, and in Him alone! The ministry of racial reconciliation provides a much deeper and more powerful remedy to combat this sin issue than anything the world offers. It calls on all who believe in and follow Jesus to recognize our sisters and brothers in Christ who do not look like us as. We see them not as mere humans, but as bearing the very image of our Heavenly Father—the very God we claim to serve. If this is our perspective, what can we do but love?
Loving God and Others
Step 1: Love God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds.
Step 2: Love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
If you are still wondering what the ministry of racial reconciliation is all about, it’s all about Jesus and how we reciprocate God’s love for us!
One of the most beautiful stories of reconciliation in the Bible takes place at a well. In John 4:1–42, Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at the well and treated her in a way that was completely countercultural at the time. This unnamed woman was an outcast in society. She was a Samaritan, and therefore hated by the Jews, while also living in sin. Jesus made a conscious decision to go to the place where He knew she would be. However, Jews traveling from Judea to Galilee would often select a longer route to completely avoid the city of Samaria. On top of everything else, it wasn't customary for Jewish men to speak to women in public places.
Jesus chose to break down all of the superficial barriers between them by speaking to her and making their conversation personal. When she realized He truly knew and loved her deeply, she was eager to accept His gift of living water that would never leave her thirsty again.
Existing in Christ and in Culture
Scripture says her testimony to her town was so powerful that it prompted many to believe and to seek Jesus out for themselves. In verse 42, the townspeople said, “We no longer believe because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” This represents the very core of the ministry of reconciliation for us as believers in Jesus. The Gospel is at the center of it all. Our ministry should always lead others to seek out the heart of God in true repentance. So how does this apply to us as we exist both within our own cultural identities and as the unified body of Christ?
To my White Sisters in Christ:
Pray before you begin this work. Ask God to reveal what is in your heart that breaks His, and pray for guidance (Psalm 139:23–24). Pray for humility, empathy, clarity, and understanding. Following the example of Jesus means that you are called to lay aside fear, privilege, comfort, and even status in order to build authentic relationships with people who look and think differently than you do (1 John 3:18). Make it personal and invite people of other ethnicities to your dinner tables.
De-center yourself and your experience to listen intently and learn from the pain and perspectives of BIPOC. Seek to better understand the systemic realities of the sin of racism. Understand that there is a place for you in this battle. Take responsibility for intentional and unintentional harm you have caused and humble yourself in the learning process. Amplify the voices of BIPOC around you within your spheres of influence. And finally, lift your own voice with those of BIPOC to seek justice.
To my fellow Black, Indigenous, and Sisters of Color in Christ:
Pray before you begin this work. Ask God to reveal what is in your heart that breaks His, and pray for guidance (Ephesians 1:17–18). Pray for humility, grace, healing, and peace. Follow the example of Jesus at the well. This means that you are called to lay aside fear, comfort, and even frustrations to build authentic relationships with people who look and think differently than you do, even when it’s exhausting.
Recognize and work to eliminate contradictions of colorism, prejudice, and internalized self-hatred that may reside in your hearts (Psalm 139:23–34). Participate in mental health care to begin to heal from the racial trauma you have experienced and that which was passed down by your ancestors for generations. And finally, choose to believe in and welcome all who engage in the process of becoming allies and set aside their natural lens to view the world through a different set of eyes.
To the unified Body of believers:
This brings us right back to where we started in 2 Corinthians 5:17–21. Here we are reminded that reconciliation is based on the restoration of the relationship first and foremost to God, and second to others. We must never forget that we are called to the ministry of reconciliation as believers—including racial reconciliation. Finally, we will live as though anything less than this, including delay, is disobedience—because it is.
Every person either is or has been the Samaritan woman at the well. When we accept the living water Jesus is offering us, we then return to our families, communities, and professional networks as new creations. This transformation in the way we see, know, and love the people around us points others right back to the source: Jesus. This is the message of the Gospel.
Once we accept the love God offers us that is greater than all forms of discrimination and injustice, we are given the responsibility of extending this same measure of love to those within our spheres of influence. Our hope for racial reconciliation in this nation and our world lies in the transforming power of the love of Christ working in and through His people. If we trust in the Lord and allow Jesus to transform us, the healing power of God’s love will continue to spread across our nation and world in ways we could never imagine.
Your friend, Marla
Meet the author
Marla Hollis serves as a Camper Care Specialist with Chick-fil-A’s non-profit organization, WinShape Camps, where she specializes in speaking into high school girls and college students from across the globe. She also ministers to middle school students in collaboration with Southside Church in Newnan, GA. As a member of GO Church, she is focused on missions and outreach, as The Lord has called her to become a bridge between nations in everything she does. Marla enjoys cooking and traveling with her family, spending time with friends all around the world, and caring for her plant babies while at home.