I really enjoy labels unless they’re applied to me. I like being able to clearly categorize things so that I am able to respond appropriately to the situation or person. If I know your personality, I can frame my response so that I am better understood. If I know that you like certain things, I can work with that and find a common ground for connection. If I know the expectations in a particular setting, I will respond appropriately to not cause a disruption.
Labels are really helpful for learning a lot about a person, place, or thing, without having to spend all that much time with that person, place, or thing. But labels can be incredibly damaging if we begin to define ourselves or others by them alone. If I begin to define myself by my labels—white, female, single, movie-lover, football fan, workaholic, only child, Enneagram 3, introvert, millennial—then I can quickly sink into some very unhealthy territory.
When I focus more on my labels, I can easily begin to distance myself from those who are different than me, seeing them as “the other”.
In his book, Advocates: The Narrow Path to Racial Reconciliation, Dhati Lewis states, “I do not believe that our differences should be ignored, overlooked or taken for granted. I think they should be displayed and discussed and celebrated. But they should be done as things that describe us, all the while recognizing our common identity in Christ is what defines us.” p. 115
Advocates was a wonderful and challenging book to read. Lewis is able to eloquently and succinctly share his story and provide practical steps that we can take to pursue reconciliation. He makes it crystal clear that reconciliation isn’t a pipe dream or a “nice to have” but is a command that we are empowered to follow through on. This book is grounded in truth and filled to the brim with practicality.
I am white, and for many years I walked through life seeing the world through a very white lens, because that’s all that was accessible to me. I thought that everyone had a similar experience to my own. But as I’ve grown older and my circle of friends and those who influence me has gained some more colorful features, the more I’ve realized how big the divide is between the races. Sadly, this division is even seen in the church.
Lewis doesn’t advocate for sticking our heads in the sand and pretending like “race doesn’t matter,” but encourages us to embrace our differences while staying focused on what truly matters: our shared faith in Christ. This book shares the difficulties of racial reconciliation and encourages us to pursue it all the more fervently.
There were so many moments while reading Advocates where I was challenged to examine my own heart, repent, and pray that God would give me the courage to live out true racial reconciliation. This book was yet another opportunity for me to identify areas where I was seeing the world through my white filter and realize there were other perspectives I wasn’t aware of. And, throughout every word, Lewis constantly pointed me back to our good God who can unify us even when the world tries to keep us divided.
Have you read Advocates?
How do you view the topic of racial reconciliation in the church?
To go Deeper: Read The Ministry of Reconciliation, What is Justice?
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