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Endurance for a Slow Reconciliation

Dante Stewart

In 2013, Christiopher Muther wrote on the connection between instant gratification and impatience in American culture saying, “The demand for instant results is seeping into every corner of our lives, and not just virtually….But experts caution that instant gratification comes at a price: It’s making us less patient.” This is not only true of American culture, but sadly true of many of our local churches.

Preaching at Together for the Gospel this year, Mark Dever, in his sermon Endurance for a Slow Reformation, stated, “In many of our churches, applause is loud and long and common and sought-after. We present edited lives on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter—fictions of only success to create real success in fact. We crave instant significance.”

I could not agree more. I also have to ask is it possible that we have settled for instant significance or gratification in the context of racial reconciliation? If so, how can we be informed and encouraged to have a more robust view of reconciliation that actually endures?  I believe that we must see the dangers of speed and the joys of endurance—if we are to have endurance for a slow reconciliation.

Dangers of Speed

In our zeal for racial reconciliation, there is a danger in wanting results immediately. This can create apathy towards how God works, as well as superficiality in our pursuits.

To this end, Dever notes, “If you’re tempted to think that if something is slow, it must not be urgent, or even important, consider the Biblical pattern.” Dever calls our attention to Noah’s work for years, God’s promise to Abram that took decades to come to fruition, Simeon’s wait in the Temple (Luke 2:25), and even the Lord Jesus’s ministry. This is not to say that God does not cause our fruit to grow quickly, but generally, as Dever notes, it’s not like that.

Do we think reconciliation is outside of this pattern? When Christ tore down the wall of hostility fully and finally (Eph. 2:15), it’s not as if the Jews and Gentiles didn’t need to go through the messy work of sanctification. The same is true of our local churches.

Racial reconciliation will have considerable implications on our lives. It will call us to face our sin and our bias in the context of corporate worship, community, and personal life. Not only will this journey confront all of this, but it will be extremely hard. It will take time, forgiveness, humility, and patience.

Our haste in this journey can also lead to superficiality in our pursuits. Racial reconciliation will be seen as a project rather than a life-long process of changing the narrative and culture. In our zeal for immediate results, we may miss what God has done in the past, and is doing in the present for the goals of the future.

Of course, we want more than books written, sermons preached, relationships built, and progress made, but in our lack of patience, we fail to see God’s sovereignty! This can lead to burnt-out and discouraged Christians, churches, and pastors because the goal was built on superficiality. And any reconciliation that’s built on superficiality is no reconciliation at all.

Joys of Endurance

In light of these dangers, let us consider three joys that would strengthen us and help us persevere in this glorious work. First, the joy of knowing reconciliation is at the heart of God and he will complete his work. Before any book was ever written, any sermon ever preached, or any conferences ever attended, reconciliation was on the heart of God from all eternity.

Paul, desiring to encourage Timothy, noted that God granted us grace “in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (1 Timothy 2:10). Out of this grace came the plan of redemption in which Christ would come to reconcile His people to God and to one another. Not only is this a present reality, this is a hope of future glory.

The glory of heaven is that God will one day be with His redeemed from all tribes, people and languages who will be singing, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” This is good news, my friends, because this means reconciliation, present or future, is not dependent upon you or me ! Do you feel that the weight of reconciliation on your shoulders? Remember God is in control.

Second, the joy of seeing people coming a part of that plan. The great news of this is not only that this is at the heart of God, but also we get to see others live this plan. You as a redeemed sinner, along with your brothers and sisters, are a part of the most glorious story ever: the story of the glory of God among all peoples. And like any good story, it takes time.

I’m currently leading a home group through “Bloodlines” by John Piper. As I reflect, I take joy in an older white sister who grew up in the racist South who desires to see reconciliation in the local church. I take joy in seeing the leadership of my church be intentional about working toward diversity in the leadership, corporate worship, and corporate community. I take joy in hearing of my white brother who is attending the Korean church in hopes of bridging.

As I was talking to Pastor Mark, I take joy in hearing that he has brothers from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia in the internship program and leadership in his church. He shared with me, “this is reconciliation happening, and praise God for that.” God, in his reconciling work, is moving people from proximity to intimacy, from ethnic representation to ethnic celebration, and from seeing reconciliation as a burden, to seeing it as a gift. Brothers and sisters, what evidences of grace in reconciliation do you see in your lives and churches? Take a moment, reflect and thank God for them, and move forward intentionally, knowing that God is bringing people together.

In conclusion, the joy of trusting the sovereign faithfulness of God not apart, but together. Dever notes, “Bible Christianity has always been marked, not by celebrity and ease and immediacy, but by suffering and hard-work and waiting.” This is no less true of our longing for racial reconciliation.

But the great consolation while we are working and waiting is that we get the joy of trusting the sovereign faithfulness of God and we get to do it together. There will be ups and downs. We will get this wrong many times. Some will think we are too fast. Some will think we are too slow. Some are excited. Some are in despair. In the midst of all these things, let us hear the words of God, “Behold, I am making all things new…these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21:5) Let us remind each other of this. Let us forgive. Let us listen. Let us celebrate each other. Let us invest in one another. Let us move forward.

To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.

10 thoughts on “Endurance for a Slow Reconciliation

  1. Kennon Wigley

    Thank you, Dante. I am thankful for your heart for reconciliation and your confidence of its ultimate accomplishment. I appreciate your patience. Still, I pray it will come about soon!
    Thank you again, Dante!

  2. Dante Stewart

    Praise God you found it useful Pastor George. I look forward to connecting and doing the work together in Augusta and beyond. I’ll be in touch soon. Grace and peace.

  3. Dante Stewart

    Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m grateful you found it useful. I pray that we are called to a greater glory in this hard yet beautiful journey.

  4. George Canady

    Dear pastor Ball’

    I am surprised you would agree with this “perspective”. It is not biblical. One can no more segregate the “pursue Godliness” from “racial reconciliation” any more than one can the parts of Matthew 22:36-40

    36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

    We can’t preach: take your time, for one part of this command “Dangers of Speed” and at the same time preach an urgency for the other.

    Imagine if a preacher taught us we were going to take our time to do the first part of this command until we get it “right” and “genuine”. We would say NO! We are to do it now and ask for forgiveness as we fail.

    The reformed church will look like the AME soon if those men who are urging us to slow down can convince us we are failing. They, Black and white, are just asking for time while they are setting up the segregated reformed church so that they do not have to obey “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” in their church leadership; share real permanent in house power, in their families; share your children in marriage, and in their neighborhood; “we’ve reach the high water mark, the blacks are moving out”…help them stay!.

    “Dangers of Speed” is just more segregation language. it is not biblical. If these men can convince us that we are waiting on God to raise up black leadership and hide the real reason is whites are refusing black leadership, then they don’t have to recruit. God is not partial, we are; James 2.

    Recruit into with as much energy as we put into segregation out of. It will work because God will bless our mess. Don’t let these men segregate the reformed Church under the disguise “how God works”.

    400 years! Really?

    Praying for us now.

  5. Claude Ball

    Love this perspective and encouraging words Dante. I have been feeling the same thing and it’s been very hard to watch churches get burnt out because superficial changes towards reconciliation hasn’t been satisfying enough for minority members. It’s also been hard with waiting for my white brothers and sisters to have enough conversations for them to get it and then they want to do work. Keep preaching this great word, because at the heart of this it feels like you’re calling for the church to pursue Godliness above racial reconciliation, which is the greater glory.

  6. George Robertson

    Dante, Thank you for this timely encouragement! As your neighbor down the street and your co-laborer in the gospel ministry, I commit with you to the long haul of reconciliation for the glory of Jesus Christ! First Presbyterian Augusta is immensely grateful for Crawford Avenue Baptist as a gospel-centered partner in the mission of “restoring people and rebuilding places for Christ.”

  7. George Canady

    Hello Carter,

    Not all of these are wise words if you are the one waiting. check out “Slavery By Another Name: A Review of ‘13th’” on TGC. After 400 years I don’t think we can claim any “Dangers of Speed”. Also you may benefit by reading the MLK letters from the Birmingham Jail. You will see the argument by the church to slowdown is an old one.

    Praying for us now.

  8. Carter

    Thank you Dante for your wise words.

  9. George Canady

    To say that God is slow is to make God responsible for This our sin. God has never been slow or partial in raising up Black men for reformed seminary, church leadership or husband of any white wife and children. He is not responsible for the factious Christian men who have caused and are causing this division.

    Any novel church historian with a basic understanding of scripture can know this was and is the churches doing. This is not Ph.D. level stuff.

    In Romans chapter one we have the result of unbelievers being turned over to a debased mind for suppressing the truth about the meaning of things made by God, including men of all ethnicities made equally in the image of God.

    We preach this chapter of Romans as if we believers are immune to the punishment of suppressing truth. But the passage is only understood by believers and so it must be a warning to us that it can happen to us as well, at least in part.

    It has happened to us in part, but we have new word for it now. We call it “blind spots”. It has a softer more innocent victim type feel to it and leads to this apathetic. “I didn’t do it” pride we hear so often from some reformed seminarians, pastors and church members; that causes the slowness. Romans says we knew these things even before we were saved. How much more now after we are saved?

    No! Mark Dever can not blame this on God. It is us. We are the factious Christian men responsible for the mostly white anything. We have no excuse before God.

    The American church has had an understanding of Romans chapter one. James chapter two and Philemon long enough not to blame God for the segregation of the reformed church. We know the punishment for this sin and we are in it. We shame God’s image from the church in front of the world. We are an example to the world of segregation.

    If we repent of “it wasn’t me” and put as much effort into reconciliation as we put into segregation, It will happen soon, because that would please God.

    And like the church warned Martin Luther when he wanted to turn the common man loose with the whole truth, it is sure to get messy. Yet we can be sure that If we wait until its safe it will never get done.

    But also beware Christian, as in Luther’s day, some powerful men in the church like it just like it is for reasons of marriage and power sharing and power loss, and I don’t just mean white men.

    Praying for us now.

  10. Samuel Melvin

    Thank you for this. I feel that some will use the Sovereign argument to resist the reconciliation that God is calling for. Justice delayed is still justice denied in my opinion. There must be a healthy balance with social justice/racial reconciliation and God’s sovereignty. I’m torn by this.

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