Racial reconciliation is an important topic that Christians must address. The phrase racial reconciliation is somewhat misleading. First, the term race implies that different types of humans exist who are not related to each other. In reality, the apostle Paul demonstrated humanity’s oneness when he declared to the Athenians that everyone originates from one source (cf. Acts 17:26). His message appealed to both the book of Genesis and the historical Adam as the ancestor of every people group in order to prove mankind’s unity.
Second, reconciliation infers from the re- prefix that at one point in the past two parties enjoyed a good relationship that for whatever reason became fractured. An examination of United States history indicates that, by and large, we’ve never settled our numerous and serious ethnic conflicts in a satisfactory manner that has brought about complete harmony. In his book Reconciliation Blues, Edward Gilbreath echoed author Clarence Shuler’s thoughts on where things stand: “I struggle with the term reconciliation. . . I mean we were never conciled.” For this reason, in many ways, ethnic conciliatory work in the United States truly is groundbreaking work.
Despite the technical inaccuracy of the phrase racial reconciliation, its continued usage is necessary because it’s one of the most recognizable expressions that refers to relations between different ethnic groups. Racial reconciliation’s goal is that people from dissimilar ethnocultural backgrounds learn to live in harmonious, loving relationships with each other. For Christians this task isn’t optional, but a God-given expectation. Thankfully, God has provided several powerful resources to help us in this journey.
In numerous texts, the apostle Paul states the key to understanding our status as believers is that we’re in Christ. During the first century, Jewish society tended to place different values on people because of their ethnicity, gender, and social standing. Paul, on the other hand, declared this philosophy to be incongruent with Christianity: “For all of you are sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, neither is there slave or free, or male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). As believers, to be one in Christ is to have a special bond with each other that requires vigiliant cultivation.
Another unifier is the Spirit of God. According to 1 Corinthians 6:19, Christians are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The significance of the verse in Greek is not that each believer is an individual temple, but together we become the temple of God. This point was Peter’s assertion when he depicted us as living stones that God is building into a spiritual house so that we might become a holy priesthood. First Corinthians 6:19 emphasizes the Lord’s expectation that we grow in harmony.
Additionally, John explained that because Jesus loved us first, we have the capacity to love others. People who don’t love the brothers and sisters they see every day don’t truly love the God they’ve never seen (1 John 4:19-20). When we love God, we’ll love others, which is proof to the world we’re Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35).
Since the Tower of Babel, nations have fought against other nations, and people groups have been at odds with one another. The Day of Pentecost was a reversal of Babel because God made all Christians one in Christ. Our objective is to make Christ known to the world, and when we live out our oneness, it’s a powerful testimony that Jesus is the Prince of Peace who helps His followers to be at peace with one another.
What kind of impact could we make if Christians across ethnic, cultural, and linguistic lines learned to address our historical and relational problems concretely, tackled the hard issues in practical ways, negotiated our differences amiably, and learned to fellowship regularly as a way of life? Without doubt, these loving acts would turn the world upside down for God’s glory. May we grow in our affection for one another, spend quality time together, and serve our Lord and Savior as unified brothers and sisters (cf. Rev. 7:9-10).
Dr. Matt Akers is Associate Dean of Graduate Programs and Director of Connected Campus/Distant Learning at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
 Edward Gilbreath, Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity (Downers Grove: IVP, 2006), 180.
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