If I had to boil this book about racial reconciliation down to a question, it would be “are you an aggravator or an advocate?”
When author Dhati Lewis uses the phrase “racial reconciliation” he says:
“I am referring to when people or people groups divided by tribe, language, skin color or nationality are restored through justice, mercy and forgiveness, to God’s original design for relationships with him and with one another.”
His definition of an aggravator is: a person who engages issues or people without a heart set on reconciliation. So being an aggravator means not just acting in a way that intensifies division, but doing things without the correct heart posture — without having a heart set on reconciliation and unity. Most of us are aggravators at some times and in some ways. We may aggravate by lashing out, but we can also aggravate when we try to ignore disunity by pretending the problem doesn’t exist. We may also see the problem but aggravate it by doing nothing because we are afraid any action we take is sure to offend someone.
An advocate, on the other hand needs:
“….a wholistic understanding …. that includes awareness of systemic injustices in the world and a desire for personal holiness, one that brings the gospel to bear on social issues and on personal issues. To imitate Christ …. and to work toward reconciliation.”
Lewis’s prescription for become an advocate is three fold:
- Reflect personally — to apply the Golden Rule, we first need to understand how we want to be treated.
- Empathize corporately–to put ourselves in the shoes of others, to understand their perspective, to give dignity to their viewpoint, to allow ourselves to connect with the emotions that motivated their actions. To really empathize, we must connect with something in ourselves that causes the same feeling that others are experiencing.
- Pursue reconciliation–pursuing justice isn’t enough — for all of us justice without reconciliation means just one thing –Hell. Reconciliation requires not justice, but mercy. Jesus “reconciled the world to himself and he has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18)
Dhati Lewis makes some worthwhile points, and this book has made me more more sensitive and aware of my own “aggravator” tendencies. However, I felt he spent too much time defining his terms and describing the problem. A better developed strategy for solution would have been welcome. When he mentioned his church’s study of the book of Philemon to address the issues, I was disappointed that he did not dig deeper into the Scripture and its message in his book.
VERDICT: A worthwhile read, but I give it only three stars
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