Christian leaders often struggle, personally, with how to take their good intentions of racial reconciliation and translate it to the realm of their faith and leadership. Here are six principles to follow:
1. Be Bible-Based and Spirit Empowered. Issues of race were different during biblical times, but that does not mean we can’t use Scripture to address what we face today. Second Corinthians 5:14-21 is clear that we have been given the gift of reconciliation and we are to be ambassadors of it. Live out the first and second greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-40), in order to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). This is our foundation.
2. Practice Humility. It’s possible for someone to perform racist actions, but not be a racist. I work hard on giving people the benefit of the doubt, marking them innocent until proven guilty. Real humility is to decline the temptation to put ourselves in God’s place and judge people harshly.
3. Become a Truth-Teller. A big reason people don’t discuss race is because it can quickly become emotional. It is okay to be emotional, but not in a destructive, all-consuming way. This requires that we work hard on keeping our emotions in check. When we’re with people we truly care about, we’re honest about what matters, regardless of how potentially offensive the situation may seem. Take the risk.
4. Develop Patience. Keep your zeal in check. When it comes to racial issues, it takes time to understand the significance of racialization. I’ve actually seen very sincere people, that were very willing to make progress, back off because mentors wanted them to get it immediately. Don’t beat up people. Instead, build knowledge together.
5. Be Positive. Too much time is spent on the negative side of racial dynamics. At some point, the focus has to shift toward solutions. Dialogue needs to revolve around proposed solutions. We need to be careful that we do not build an atmosphere filled with a constant diatribe on what is wrong that short-changes us spending time on what is right. Find the bright spots and study why they are bright! We have to learn to encourage one another in the Lord instead of always assigning blame or imagining slights.
6. Show Respect. All racial groups need to be treated with dignity. One killer of reconciliation efforts is paternalism—the intrusion of one group on another against its will. The intrusion is justified by a claim that the group intruded upon will be “better off.” What results is a one-sided relationship.
What principles do you see as crucial to transformational multiethnic leadership?