Filling in the GAPS: Ready, Set, Go!
By Heather Hedlund
Paul often compared the Christian life to running a race. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 he says, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." As we've learned in the last few months, God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. This is the race he has assigned us to run, and it's not a sprint, it's a life-long relay.
We've been using the GAPS acronym to explore the steps of reconciliation and particularly how they apply to racial reconciliation.
- Go to the person you're in conflict with
- Be in relationships with people of races and ethnicities different from your own
- Diversify the people who are informing your thoughts and values
- Admit your part of the conflict
- Learn the truth about the history of racial injustice in the United States
- Stay until it's worked out
- Repair what's broken in your sphere of influence and support others who are working on a larger scale
- Commit to racial reconciliation as a life-long journey
This is a very intentional process. As Paul suggests in the verses above, we need to go into "strict training." This means choosing to take an action and putting it on the to-do list or calendar to make sure it happens. It means being devoted to prayer and reading the Bible, seeking God's heart for justice. What actions have you taken to train for this race? Perhaps you've reached out to deepen a friendship with someone of a different race or ethnicity. Maybe you've read a book by a Black author and discussed it with some friends. Have you spent time in prayers of lament or confession or repentance? Maybe you've noticed an injustice in your workplace, neighborhood, or school, and you've pointed it out and suggested a change. Or perhaps you've invested time or money in an organization that's working to address injustice. Consider each action as a training exercise, and when it's complete, choose a new one to keep building your strength for the journey.
Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil defines reconciliation as "an ongoing spiritual process involving forgiveness, repentance, and justice that restores broken relationships and systems to reflect God's original intention for all creation to flourish." As we've explored the elements of reconciliation using the GAPS acronym, it can start to feel a bit like a step-by-step process with a beginning, middle, and end. The truth, though, is that it's more of a loop. As we grow in our relationships, as we learn new things about our history or even our present situation, and as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes, we'll keep returning to early stages in the process and work our way through the steps again.
Racial injustice has existed in our country since its very beginning, over 400 years ago. We won't be able to fix it overnight, probably not even in our lifetime. But Hebrews 11 gives us the example we should aspire to by listing numerous heroes of the faith who obeyed God for their whole lives. "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance" (Hebrews 11:13). "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1). I long for a day when racism and injustice no longer exist in our country and the world. True wholeness will not happen until Jesus returns, but we can work to bring His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven more and more each day. We may not cross the finish line ourselves, but we can catch a glimpse of it as we run our leg and race forward to pass the baton to the next generation.
Wondering how to get started? Here are a few ideas:
- Study what the Bible says about Justice.
- Join the Raise Your Voice for Justice small group (info below).
- Invite a couple of friends to read and discuss a book with you, then decide together what action you'll take as a result of what you've read.