Are our blindspots preventing racial reconciliation?
“Part of being human is having blindspots. My experience opens my eyes to some things yet blurs my vision on some other things.”
Walter Strickland, assistant professor and associate vice president for diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, shared this reminder during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s “Strengthen the Church” conference in August 2019.
In this video of this keynote address, Strickland explains that we typically have a conversation about race and reconciliation in the wake of an event covered on the national news. Often these types of incidents result in conversations that have negative overtones and cause reactive engagement that is not sustainable. So, what is the motivation behind true racial reconciliation?
Strickland says reconciliation involves two overarching principles — participation in God’s plan and transformation to God’s ways.
Participation in God’s plan
In order to participate in God’s plan, we must start with Scripture. Strickland says, “It’s good to have a proactive conversation looking to the pages of the Bible to understand God’s heart for all people so that we can engage these things when our hearts are a little less stirred in a negative, reactive way.” Strickland briefly lays out God’s story, beginning with creation and culminating in Revelation 7:9-10, in which “a great multitude…from every nation…tribes…peoples and languages” are “crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God…and to the Lamb!’”
Strickland explains that a “fracture resulted in all that God declared good” when our ancestors rejected God’s provision in Genesis 3. Our current brokenness with other people is a symptom of all that happened at the Fall.
“People in multiethnic spaces have more opportunities to put on Christ in such a way that overcomes historical baggage, heals grudges, and forces us to think on behalf of another.”
Transformation to God’s ways
When conversations about race turn awkward or result in misunderstandings, people often run back to their segregated spaces. “Why?” Strickland asks. “Because our history says it’s OK. That’s not the Word of God.”
So how do we get to the vision we see in Revelation 7 of every tongue, nation and tribe worshipping around the throne of God? “Bridge-building across ethnic and cultural lines” which, Strickland says, “is probably one of the premiere spiritual litmus tests in our country.”
Encouragement is found in the gospel. Racial reconciliation “is not some politically, socially motivated activity. This is something that’s going to require more of us. It required much of our Savior,” Strickland said.
“People in multiethnic spaces have more opportunities to put on Christ in such a way that overcomes historical baggage, heals grudges, and forces us to think on behalf of another. The only person who can do that is the person who is made alive in Christ.”
When we are motivated by participation in God’s plan and transformation to God’s ways, we realize “we need each other to see our blindspots.” Though now we “see in part” (1 Corinthians 13:12), when we embrace others who are different from us, we gain diverse perspectives to help us see more clearly and we “allow the world to see a foretaste of what is to come” in Revelation 7.