Tell us about this book, “Advocates.” What inspired you to write it?
As our advocate, Christ reconciled us to the Father and made a way for us to be reconciled to one another. The command to put on Christ and live as he lived is given and echoed in many places throughout the New Testament. This is one small and particularly powerful living example of putting on Christ in this way: the book of Philemon.
The issue of racial division is close to my heart for a lot of different reasons. I’ve always had the desire to run to the tension with a heart for reconciliation; this book is manifestation of that practice.
Who did you write it for? What need does it address?
I wrote this book for anyone who is dealing with irreconcilable differences. The body of Christ can never claim irreconcilable differences because his ability to reconcile all things to himself is at the very core of the gospel. While we focus on the area of ethnic tensions, these principles can be applied to any discord, disharmony or division. Therefore I believe the principles of Philemon are applicable to all who seek to do God’s will.
Why is it important to let the Bible guide us in our efforts toward racial reconciliation, and how does the book of Philemon unpack what it means to be an advocate in the midst of division?
I often state that the goal of a believer is to apply first-century principles into a 21st century context. Therefore, we must abide in biblical principles to address this issue that is non-negotiable. Keeping our focus on the biblical principles allows us to distinguish them from just really good ideas, personal preferences or personal inclinations. In the book of Philemon, we see Paul clearly modeling the advocacy of Christ using some biblical principles that can be applied to any situation that causes division.
How are the divisions in our day similar and different to those in Paul’s letter?
Racial division is a real problem that demands real solutions that can lead to real transformation. These divisions that have been caused racism, classism, sexism and every other “ism” is not new to our time. I can make a strong argument that a lot of the New Testament was written about the same types of divisions that we are facing today. Therefore, these biblical principles are relevant for our day.
Why does the church (and the world) need godly advocates?
Jesus says, “The world will know you are my disciples because of your love for one another.” There are many reasons to be divided in our country right now. The church has a great opportunity to be undivided. If we can not produce people who are advocates of reconciliation, then the world has no hope because we can not give what we do not have. Therefore, we must embrace our ministry and help to authenticate the gospel through reconciled relationships. I believe authenticity and genuine unity across ethnic barriers testify to a broken world that Jesus is real, and his love can save.
Many Christians have been involved in discussions about ethnic and racial division. You mention in the book that some are suffering from fatigue (they’ve been working on this for so long and have seen so little fruit that they’re tempted to despair), and others are suffering from fragility (these issues make them so anxious that they’re terrified to say or do anything). Why should these two groups of people pick up this book?
This is a biblical issue—not just a social issue. To the fatigued, the book equips you with an apologetic to defend why we talk about race so much and why race matters to God. To the fragile, the book reminds you we must intentionally fight to be cross-cultural and resist the natural tendency to become defensive. We have the opportunity to act justly and pursue reconciliation, not for the goal of just being right, but for the goal of being reconciled. Reconciled to God and to one another.
How do you hope pastors and church leaders use the book and grow from reading it?
My prayer is to see relationships reconciled and communities transformed. We can do more together than apart, so I’d encourage small groups to go through this reading together. We’ve created the bulk purchase option of the resource to this end of equipping you and those you disciple to become reconcilers. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can pursue reconciliation today—on earth. And my prayer is that as we do so, more will come to know Christ because of the love they see poured out through his people for one another and for the world.
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