Written by Jim and Debbi McKillop
Debbi and I grew up as Christians and were drawn to God’s grace early on in our lives. We thought we were overall “good” Christians learning and following God’s Word. We’ve been Orangewood members for over 25 years, but the past two months revealed just how far our thoughts and beliefs strayed from God’s design. Part of our path of faith could be described as having a huge “log in our eye.” When God created one man and one woman, He made all of us from the same blood. We had to ask ourselves, what does that mean for us? Acts 17:26 says, “From one man He made all the nations, and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands” (New International Version).
This summer, we participated in a book study group based on John M. Perkins’s One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love. This was a first for us in both form and structure. Our study group was conducted on Zoom and was much easier than we could have imagined for both the experienced and inexperienced Zoom users. We joined with over 30 Christians and split into four groups. We knew some within our group, others we knew only by sight, but we came together with faith and trust in Christ.
Each week we would examine one chapter of the book, other writings by Christian authors, pertinent articles on racism, and historical videos or podcasts dealing with the breadth and depth of racism in our country, our communities, and yes, even our churches. We would prepare our thoughts for each meeting by examining the discussion questions.
Perkins identifies that the Church has been unable to arrive at a solution for racial reconciliation, “The problem is that there is a gaping hole in our gospel. We have preached a gospel that leaves us believing that we can be reconciled to God but not reconciled to our Christian brothers and sisters who don’t look like us — brothers and sisters with whom we are, in fact, one blood.”
We discovered hard truths in our readings and discussions, and we individually experienced sincere anguish, anger, and lament. One participant identified this as God performing “heart surgery” on us through this process. Some heard the concept of White privilege for the first time and began to understand more fully that systemic racism had rooted itself into the United States’ legal fabric since the Reconstruction Period following the Civil War. We had to face that, though some laws were created to end racial injustices, the administration of those laws was structured with even more vigorous discrimination and radical prejudice.
Scripture became more clear to us as we began seeing passages that spoke about “good news” for “all people” and passages on unity ( Lk. 2:10-11; Jn. 17:21-23; Acts 10:28; Eph. 2:14-16 New International Version). We were shaken awake to God’s straightforward commands — commands which had been read and discussed for many years, many times, in many large and small groups. “And Jesus replied to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-3 New International Version).
We knew in our minds that these were not suggestions, but we suddenly realized that we failed to apply them in the context of race. We had either consciously or unconsciously divided God’s Word into fragments and excluded parts. Instead, we took His Word and applied it in a manner that made us feel good. We had harbored racism.
This study humbled us to seek God in prayer, and as we did, we were also graciously led by Him to repentance. We are now continuing to search for what our part might be in God’s plan as He leads men and women to reconcile widespread racial inequalities.
Since this study, we’ve been led to seek out, read, and listen to Christian organizations committed to racial reconciliation and repentance. We’ve begun by looking at history and examining articles on the Reconstruction Era and the Civil Rights Movement. It’s been a personal investment for us as we have purchased and explored books by Black authors. We even started listening to podcasts hosted by various authors to expand our narrow understanding of racial injustice.
In this journey, we have learned new definitions of racism, anti-racism, and White privilege by Christian and secular authors. We’re learning that these definitions have a different meaning among white people as well as different meanings for people of color. Miscommunication often happens at the beginning of these conversations. We understand now that reconciling conversations require time in a way that brief interactions on the internet or casual exchanges fail to give.
We’re continuing this process as we seek information from other churches in the local area and will be joining a community group this fall through Orangewood Church that is centered on the gospel and racial reconciliation. Our hope and prayer is that our church would become a meaningful agent of radical love for all our brothers and sisters in the faith and participate in the greater picture that Scripture paints for us.
“After this, I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, every tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9 New International Version).
If you would like more information about joining a community group centered on the gospel and racial reconciliation, click here. For information about all other community groups, click here.