A Culture with No Excuse

Three of my four boys are volunteer fire fighters, so when they get together, the stories pile up, one upon another, and the youngest of the three will, inevitably, be reminded (repeatedly) of his lowly status.  He’s a “probie,” a probationary fire fighter — new, full of enthusiasm, but not necessarily full of experience or know-how.  That’s me on the topic of racial reconciliation.  However, even here in rural Maine where we’re a pretty homogeneous bunch, I don’t have to look further than Portland to find accounts of healthy, positive relationships being built by my friend Beth in her work within the Somali Christian community — or further than Lewiston to read accounts of our own tiny refugee crisis.  Needless to say, my learning curve is nearly vertical.

Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker have responded to the brother-against-brother of racism with a collection of five essays centered around the theme that “in the Kingdom of God, it is not us against them.  The Kingdom of God is us reconciled to one another.”  Part of The Gospel for Life Series, The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation is intended as a primer for equipping believers with sufficient background to free us from our fear of engaging in the conversation on race and to motivate us toward action that will make a difference.

J. Daniel Hays traces equality among the races — and the dignity of all human beings — to our creation in the image of God, debunking along the way a good many myths and downright lies about issues such as erroneous views of where the Bible comes down on slavery and interracial marriage.  Because God depicts a multi-ethnic congregation from every tribe and language and people and nation at the climax of history, it follows then that the gospel is for all people and ethnicities.

Identity in Christ overshadows all other identities, and Thabiti Anyabwile makes a strong case for the truth that the solution to racial strife will not be simply a matter of re-education, but, rather, change at the “root of man’s being” which results in a longing for equality for all who bear the image of God.

Trillia Newbell emphasizes love — for God and for neighbors — as the driving force behind racial reconciliation.   Not only is our service more beneficial when we link arms with a diverse workforce, but, more importantly, the church that demonstrates unity in Christ through the gospel is putting the transforming work of the gospel on display.  Coming from an era in which I was encouraged to be “color blind,” I was enlightened by Trillia’s encouragement to “see color” in a celebration of ethnic differences that trumpets God’s creativity.  Open conversations about race beat a path away from apathy and its close cousin, racism, and toward open relationships.

There is a theme of reconciliation that permeates the narrative arc of Scripture, and Eric Mason likens the potential for racial reconciliation in the church to the impact that hip-hop music has had on the culture at large, a restoration of friendly relationships (conversations!) based on a shared interest.  The unity Paul calls for in Ephesians 4 is an element of the believer’s sanctification. Since, therefore, racism is sin, the believer is directed to war against it.

The quest for diversity within the church must extend beyond Sunday  morning, beyond a “reconciliation for hire” approach to staffing, and beyond a forced homogeneity that ignores the beautiful complexity of first-generation realities.  Matthew J. Hall and D.A. Horton address the theological influences that shaped our unique, born-in-the-USA-brand of racism, stressing that “if we’re going to get this right, we need to be honest about where we have gotten it wrong.”  May God in His mercy allow the church another opportunity to put on display the beauty of redemption and to represent Him well in our approach to racial reconciliation.

By looking at the issues at the heart of racism, listening to the positions of those who are different from us, learning out of a generous position of humility, and living life together in a community that is redolent with the sweet nectar of Spirit-borne fruit, it may be that we can earn the right to speak truth into our culture.  In the New Testament, there are no fewer than twenty-two injunctions for believers to love one another, and first-century Christians left their world looking for the reason behind their inexplicable love.  What an honor and a miracle of grace it would be if the church could once again engage the culture with the gospel and embody a multicultural, multi-ethnic community that would render present day culture “with no excuse for not pursuing the God who reconciled us to Him and [to] each other.”


This book was provided by B&H Publishing Group in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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29 thoughts on “A Culture with No Excuse”

  1. “Twenty-two injuctions for believers to love one another” caused me to catch my breath. That’s quite a few, isn’t it? So much of what society faces today is right there on the pages of the Bible. My sister-in-law and I were disucssing it yesterday, for other reasons than racial ones, but here it is again. Ultimately, it really is simple, isn’t it? Just love. Visiting via both #heartencouragement and #ThoughtprovokingThursday.


  2. “Twenty-two injunctions for believers to love one another” caught my attention as well. Loving in unity must be our highest aim. I’m so glad that Jesus can empower us to do what we can’t muster up on our own!

    Seems like this is another book I “need!”


  3. What blesses me most when I think of things like this is that in Heaven we will all be there together. There will be no stigmas attached, praise God! We will love as Jesus loves, and oh, if only, we could better learn to do that in this life. I have never understood prejudice…we are all equal in God’s eyes, and He loves us all the same. To Him, there is no difference. Thank you for sharing this, dear friend. God bless you and your family of firefighters! 🙂 May God ever keep all of you safe in His tender care!


  4. Michele,
    I believe that when something or someone is different than us, fear takes hold. Why? I believe the enemy loves nothing more than to pull us apart when Jesus taught just the opposite. Through my work with RCF, Inc. I have come to love people from a culture that is so different than mine…and you know what…we have a LOT of things in common (emotions, feelings, dreams, fears, and most of all FAITH). I love that God has literally pushed me outside my comfort zone and I’ve found that it’s a wonderful place to be. Thank you for this honest and thought provoking post!
    Blessings to you,


    1. I have a quote about comfort zones written in one of my notebooks: What if every comfort zone is really a death trap? I think it’s an Ann Voskamp original, and isn’t it truer and truer the older we get? Thanks for blasting your way out of yours!


      1. The Lord has led me in making unique directions it seems. A close friend of mine who is originally from Maine just came back to OH from spending the summer at their camp. I can’t recall exactly where it is. We visited it years ago and climbed Mt. Blue then. She and I taught for a number of years together.


      2. Pam, I love your new post shared at Janis’s place today. I tried to comment, but the comment went poof and disappeared. Did it land in your spam? Not sure if it’s my problem or a problem with your comments section . . .?


  5. I’m adding this book to my list. This really stood out to me – “if we’re going to get this right, we need to be honest about where we have gotten it wrong”. Being honest is one step to fixing problems. Thanks for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.


  6. Wonderful review especially in the troubling times which we live. You brought up a question I have asked myself often … Instead of focusing on differences, what would happen if we focused on what we have in common? Perhaps our common ground would grow right under our feet providing a firm foundation for us to forge relationship. Glad I stopped by this morning. Blessings!


    1. I actually was hesitant to review this book because I’m so uninformed, but found, really, that the book was written for people like me. And it reminded me too that the gospel comes to bear upon all my relationships — it is the common ground for our feet (such a lovely way of saying it, Joanne!).


  7. Hey Michele,
    Thank you for this review and for highlighting the need for more diversity within the church – even on Sunday morning!
    We’ve been in churches that have done this so well. There is something so sweet when we all fellowship together – without noticing our differences!
    Always appreciate what you have to share!
    You bless me~


  8. Yes, Michele, I’ve been taught to be “color blind” as well, and yet it’s not right to ignore our differences in the name of avoiding “racism.” We must embrace our differences because Christ loves and embraces our differences as well. In fact, He created them! Certainly He should love them and cherish every nuance we possess. Sounds like a great read, my friend! Thanks for encouraging us to love and live in all the right directions.


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