Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their wrongdoings against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Cor 5:18-19 NASB
This is the fourth in a series of reflections on books read by the Creekside Book Club.
John Perkins wrote One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race at the age of 87, knowing it might be his last major work. Perkins hopes “as you read this book that you are able to hear (God’s) tender voice speaking through me. We’ll talk about race in our country, our history as a nation, and our role as the church in it.” (p. 19, Perkins, John M., Moody Publishers, 2018 )
Perkins succeeded with me. I heard God’s tender voice, which was a bit of an accomplishment as I’m a crabby old lady, and have a negative history with secular presentations of anti-racism. Perkins won me with love, Scripture and stories of real people battling injustice and contemporary churches that are ethnically and/or economically diverse.
Perkins lays out in One Blood why and how he dedicated his life to reconciliation, but rejects the term “racial” reconciliation. Here’s why:
The truth is that there is no black race—and there is no white race. So the idea of “racial reconciliation” is a false idea. It’s a lie. It implies that there is more than one race. This is absolutely false. God created only one race—the human race. Biblical reconciliation is the removal of tension between parties and the restoration of loving relationship.” (p. 17)
Perkins calls for Christian lament over the reality of disunity over so-called race. He laments the failings of churches, in restrictive and discriminatory policies over the years. Blacks not treated as full members, leading to separate churches. Scripture used to justify rejection and subjection of folks of different skin color. Then, Perkins points to the Psalms and the Prophets, and the lamenting songs of Christian slaves to school us in lament.
Lament leads to confession and forgiveness. “Forgiveness is in our DNA as Christians,” says Perkins. The story of the prodigal son and the modern witness of the costly forgiveness of those harmed by Dylann Roof speak to the heart.
And then tear down the walls. Perkins invokes Zacchaeus, with whom I feel affinity.
If we have an abundance of wealth and we have the opportunity to use this blessing to encourage those we have previously been prejudiced against, we should open our hands in Christian love and brotherhood. (p. 117)
How are such opportunities created? Perkins urges us to listen well to those who are different from us. He recommends the Covenant immersion experience of Sankofa and a visit to the the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. to expand our awareness.
Perkins devotes one full chapter to prayer titled: “Prayer, the Weapon of Our Warfare”. It’s the foundation of everything, he says. “In this battle for biblical reconciliation, we pray. We pray. We pray because this battle is the Lord’s.” (p.147) And “without (prayer), nothing God-honoring happens.” (p. 145) The devil wants our enmities and prejudices and hatreds to conquer us, whether we actively promote them or quietly benefit from them. But God is stronger.
After four intense books, the Book Club is considering next steps. More books? Go? Do? Pray? We have appreciated the time together and the “iron sharpens iron” conversation over very difficult matters.
I’ll close with an African proverb he offered.
When I saw you from afar, I thought you were a monster. When you got closer, I thought you were just an animal. When you got even closer, I saw that you were a human, but when we were face to face I realized that you were my brother. (p. 165)
John M. Perkins is cofounder of the Christian Community Development Association and director of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation, Justice, and Christian Community Development in Jackson, Mississippi.