It's that time of year. The Pumpkin Spice Latte returns to Starbucks and suddenly pumpkin spice products are popping up everywhere you turn. This year, you can even find Pumpkin Spice Mac & Cheese. Last year at this time, my son Erik was attending Confirmation Class at BelPres. His favorite week was when Anthony Ballard came to talk to the group about justice. Anthony was sharing that racial reconciliation is a popular term and it feels really good, but a lot of people don't really understand all that it involves. We tend to want to jump ahead to the part at the end where we all get along and skip all the work it takes to get there. At which point Erik coined the term "Pumpkin Spice Reconciliation." It's ubiquitous and it makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but it's fleeting and there's not a lot of substance.

So how do we get beyond Pumpkin Spice Reconciliation and work towards genuine racial reconciliation. First, we need to understand the biblical roots of reconciliation. In 2 Corinthians 5: 17-18, Paul states, "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." As Christians, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation, first to God, and then to each other. In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about reconciliation through Jesus between Jews and Gentiles. In verse 14 he says, "For he [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility." The church has a unique and important role because reconciliation will not come through human effort, but rather through the power of Christ.

In a sermon on reconciliation, Pastor Scott Dudley shared a helpful acronym for the steps of reconciliation: GAPS

  • Go to the person you're in conflict with.
  • Admit your part of the conflict.
  • Pray.
  • Stay.

We can take these steps for personal reconciliation and apply them to the larger mission of racial reconciliation. The first step requires relationship. We need to be in relationship with people of a different race or ethnicity than our own. Many People of Color already have a number of relationships with white people, but many white people need to be more proactive to develop relationships with People of Color. We need to go into these relationships with a posture of humility, willing to listen carefully to understand how the other person's experience differs from our own.

Next, we need to admit our part in the conflict. In the United States, white people need to do the heavy lifting here. We need to learn the full history of our country and how that impacted Black people and other People of Color, and we need to be willing to tell the truth about that history. Some of this information may be difficult to hear. It may cause feelings of defensiveness, anger, or even shame. This is why the third step is so important: Pray.

Our prayers begin with lament – genuine grief over what has happened. Then we move to confession – owning up to our part of the brokenness. This is a two-fold confession: both acknowledging our personal complicity in broken systems, and also corporate confession on behalf of our community and our ancestors, much like Daniel and Nehemiah model for us in Chapter 9 of each of their respective books. Confession leads to repentance, where we seek God's forgiveness and his help to move forward in a new direction.

Finally, the last step is to stay until it's worked out. This means fixing what's broken and making amends. Reconciliation requires justice, so we need to work to transform systems that perpetuate injustice. Biblical justice also insists on restitution much like Zacchaeus did joyfully after encountering Jesus (Luke 19). As Pastor Dudley said, "Reconciliation doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. We've got to keep at it."
There's a lot to unpack in these steps, and in future newsletters, we'll look at each one in more detail. For now, let's commit to pursuing the work of genuine, biblical racial reconciliation. We can leave the pumpkin spice for the lattes.

We recommend these books to learn more about biblical racial reconciliation: