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One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love

If you have not read works by John M. Perkins or listened to him speak, now is the time to do so.  Mr. Perkins is a minister, civil rights activist, community developer, and author, among other things.  The son of Mississippi sharecroppers, he fled to California after his brother was killed by a policeman.  He came to Christ at the age of 27 and soon after returned to rural Mississippi with a vision to bring the Gospel and change to the rural poor.  He and his wife founded Voice of Calvary Ministries and Mendenhall Ministries there, and were involved in civil rights activities during the 1960’s which led to his arrest in 1970 and torture by local police.  Perkins also founded Harambee Ministries in Pasadena, CA and the Christian Community Development Association.   His most well-known books include Let Justice Roll Down (1976), One Blood: A Parting Word to the Church on Race (2018),, and Dream With Me: Race, Love and the Struggle We Must Win (2017).

These past few weeks we have seen impassioned, and at times violent, calls for justice, for racial equality.  We all know that this is a problem in our country, there is not arguing that.  But what is the answer? What does God say on the issue and what should our Christian response be? 

In One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love, Perkins pours his heart out to the Church. His words are based on decades of experience and time spent at the feet of Jesus.  The title, One Blood, is the basis of Perkins years of work. There is only one race – the human race.  There is no Biblical foundation for different races as we know them, rather the Bible talks about ethnic groups based on language, culture, country of origin, and lineage, and how God desires for all ‘ethnos’/nations to come to Him and worship him together.

Perkins calls the Church to lament its broken past, to confess actions and attitudes, and to forgive as God has forgiven us.  We must also continue to move forward for Biblical reconciliation (Note: Perkins prefers the term ‘Biblical reconciliation’ over ‘racial reconciliation’ as it accurately expresses “the removal of tension between parties and the restoration of loving relationship” that the Bible teaches. p. 17). Throughout the book Perkins gives us historic examples of those who have fought for the reconciliation, as well as present day examples of multi-ethnic churches working towards reconciliation in cities around the country.   Perkins calls us to prayer, to time before our Lord for our hearts, for our brothers and sisters, for those organizations fighting for reconciliation and for the Church.  And most importantly – love.  The goal of Biblical reconciliation is restored loving relationships. Love is messy and hard and requires commitment and work. Perkins calls us to commit and work toward love for our brothers and sisters, no matter the color of their skin. 

One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love is a compelling and short read.  It also includes discussion questions so it makes a great group read as well.  It’s available in hardback, paperback and Kindle versions.  Add it to your reading list this week!

Understanding Different Cultures

A Beginner’s Guide to Crossing Cultures: Making Friends in a Multicultural World

by Patty Lane

Patty Lane gives us an excellent resource for understanding the differences in worldviews of different cultural groups. She discusses how different cultures view conflict, values, authority, and time, and much more.  This book also includes a number of appendices about cultural characteristics, and sharing your faith with different cultures. She also offers ideas on how churches of different cultural backgrounds can partner in ministry. A Beginner’s Guide to Crossing Cultures can be studied in groups or read individually. 

Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold- Climate Cultures

 by Sarah Lanier

Sarah Lanier offers us a short book (128 pages) which provides an understanding of different types of cultures, which she separates into “hot-climate” (relationship-oriented) and “cold-climate” (task-oriented) cultural worldviews.  Lanier explains in an engaging way how these viewpoints affect views on communication, privacy, identity, hospitality, time, and other factors By understanding the different cultural viewpoints, the reader can better understand and engage with others of different cultural backgrounds.

Becoming Whole

by Brian Fikkert and Kelly M. Kapic

Becoming Whole challenges our presuppositions about what poverty is by looking at the whole story of the world through the lens of the Bible.  A key part of this book is a discussion of stories of change, or how different people believe that change comes about in their lives and circumstances.  Many middle-class Americans, for example, believe that change comes from “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” while lower-income individuals might believe that change is out of their reach entirely, and people in other cultures might believe that change comes from appeasing the spirits. 

By looking at the roots of these stories of change, we can begin to understand the worldviews of those traditionally considered the “helpers” and “recipients of help” and why there is often a clash.  Ultimately, we see that we are all broken people, in need of the help that only Jesus Christ can give as we are transformed into His image, and that we are called to walk with our brothers and sisters in pursuing that change.

This book uncovers two major viewpoints on poverty alleviation that are often unknowingly taken up by people in the West.  The first, Western Naturalism, doubts the existence or relevance of God to the working of the universe.  People are purely individualistic physical beings, and find happiness in consuming material things, ignoring the four key relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation that are key to our lives as people created in the image of God.

The second viewpoint, Evangelical Gnosticism, separates each person’s need for a Savior from their economic needs.  It is a sort of fusion of Western Naturalism and Christianity, but, sadly, loses the fullness of the Gospel.  In a way, this is similar to a common separation of Sunday from the rest of the week, in which Sunday is set apart for “being a Christian,” and the rest of the week is for living your life in the way you choose to live. 

When poverty alleviation programs separate becoming a Christian and saving your soul for when you die from the way you live your life every day, the transformation of the Gospel in the entire person is lost.  It is only in recognizing that Christ’s change in our hearts deeply impacts how we live each moment and make each decision that we start to recognize God’s story of change for us, and we can walk alongside others in pursuing change together.

Becoming Whole integrates theology, economic principles, and sociology in considering the theory behind how people and organizations pursue and promote change in the lives of the poor.  Its companion book, A Field Guide to Becoming Whole, expands on these concepts and applies them to ministry design principles which are easily applicable in real-life situations.  Stay tuned for a review of this book in the coming weeks!