I have been involved with the issue of reconciliation for about 5 years now. My wife and I (and our son who was 2 years old at the time) spent 3 months on an intense residential course on Biblical Reconciliation before we moved to the States. For three months I was steeped in lecturers and books on reconciliation. The paper that I wrote for the course, The Paradox of A Divided Church Called To Be Reconcilers To The World, was published as a chapter in a book. I also edited a resource book for schools on Biblical Reconciliation. It was for these reasons that I was excited to review this book.
Charles Marsh (Seminary Professor) and John Perkins (Civil Rights activist) team together to write on God’s movement towards ‘Beloved Community.’ As John Perkins writes, God is calling me to help churches see and incorporate as an essential part of discipleship. The captivity of the church to our culture has left us so divided.
The church has a massive, God given role in reconciliation and it needs to embrace this call. The gospel itself is a call to reconciliation – turn back to The Father who desires to be restored in relationship with his children through his Son Jesus Christ; The Church is called to be a blessing in places of brokenness, so God sends us to the jails. God wants us to interrupt this broken system with his love.
The chapters are shared between Perkins and Marsh. When you read Perkins chapters you literally hear his cry leaping from the pages – the cry for the church to get serious about true reconciliation; serious about being involved with a broken world; serious about community that is attractive, discipleship based and reconciliation focused. Christians have spent a lot of time talking about who Jesus is without paying attention to how he lived.
Community based church is a key feature for the authors. A Church that simply attracts people who commute in and out is not as asset to a community. They contribute very little, if not nothing to the community (accept traffic problems on a Sunday). A Church that is made up of people from the community is an asset to the community – investing time and energy in those with whom they live with to declare God’s reconciliation and to be an illustration of reconciliation to the community.
Of course the two key areas that need this is racial relations and those in poverty and time is spent on these issues. John Perkins insights into the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s are very insightful. Much has changed and much progress has been made since Martin Luther-Kings death some 40 years ago, but there is more to be done; We’re not there yet, but we are living in a new time. This is a time for re-building. I pray that every Christian, young and old alike, would have the courage to give themselves fully to God’s movement toward reconciliation and beloved community in society.
My only difficulty with the book was that some of the chapters were a little disjointed. Sometimes I was not sure where the chapter was heading. But overall this is a great little book. This book should be read by all Christians but especially pastors and church leaders so that reconciliation gets into the DNA of the church. Definitely recommended.