Over spring break I had the opportunity to travel to Jackson, Mississippi. We spent our time in West Jackson working with the Spencer Perkins Center. At the Perkins Center they actively work to bring racial reconciliation to the community of West Jackson. Our group got to see the impact of racial reconciliation and a taste of what it was like in the South, not even 50 years ago. We also had the chance to learn what it truly means to reconcile with one another through the grace of God.
God calls us to reconcile in radical ways. We are called to believe that reconciliation is more than forgiving one another for our wrong doings, but also building new communities and restoring life back into broken relationships.
Throughout the week I heard stories of pain and peace from both John Perkins, the director of the Spencer Perkins Center, and the community members. They opened up their hearts to us sharing about situations where they were violently oppressed throughout their lives, just because they were not white. I sat in amazement at the way God has used John Perkin’s life, and the lives of those in West Jackson, to live out what it looks like to reconcile and to truly love our neighbor. We learned about what it actually looks like to not only forgive our oppressors, but to actively seek community with them.
I was humbled when I reflected on relationships in my life that were in need of restoration. Most of them are the result of miscommunication, gossip, pride, jealousy, and most of all, a lack of priority.
Then, as usual, questions of self-doubt began to rush through my head:
-How could I be so selfish?
-How can I hold on to these grudges?
-Why haven’t I reconciled??
-My problems are so small compared to everything happening down in Jackson- how could I be so wounded by relationships that pale in comparison to the people of West Jackson?
After stewing over these questions for the next few days, I was listening to a wise woman of the community as she told us, “Pain always has an expiration date, but the promises of God do not.” At that moment it was as if a lightbulb went off in my head. I was suddenly reminded of the way that Jesus works.
I was reminded that there is no conflict too small or too large to escape the healing power of God. From the restorative work God is doing in the communities of West Jackson, to the strength God is instilling in our hearts to reconcile broken relationships.
I was reminded that we are loved by a God that we cannot put into a box. That being said, in order to truly love our neighbor, reconciliation is necessary. How are we supposed to build a community that is focused on Christ if we are unable to reconcile with our friends, coworkers, and loved ones?
Jesus has not called us to like our neighbor, but to love them. By that I am saying that we are not necessarily called to get along with everyone, or be everyone’s best friend. If that were true there would definitely be more than 24 hours in a day.
Although we are not called to mesh with every personality, we are called to honor each other. These concepts were brought to life during church one morning in Jackson as we explored the concept of “the huddle.” The pastor, Big John, had us imagine ourselves at a football game. The team comes out onto the field, they huddle for about 30 seconds, and then they play the game. Sometimes there are victorious moments of triumph, but also moments of defeat, both of which make a good game.
The next question Big John posed was: what if they just stayed in the huddle? We would be furious. We paid to come see a game and all that we’re getting now is a group of people standing around?
In the same way, Christians use the Church as our huddle. Instead of being Sunday morning Christians that absorb information and then go on with our daily lives unchanged, we have the opportunity to break from the huddle and go out into the world to play the game. I don’t mean putting on the uniform, and then standing on the sidelines, but to truly dig into what it means to actively reconcile and love our neighbor.
Jesus paid to see us play, so let’s give Him a good game.- Bethany