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Radical Commitment to Racial Reconciliation

by Anna Hartge

When I read Luke 14:25 – 33 the words “radical commitment” dropped into my spirit.  I have struggled with this passage for years.  Many scholars refer to this passage as one of the hard sayings of Jesus.   Is Jesus really telling us to hate our families? How could Jesus, who demonstrated the ultimate act of love by dying for us, share this confusing message?

A quick review of the definitions of the word “radical” underscored my feeling that following Christ requires going to extremes.

The parable in Luke 14: 25- 33 details the cost of discipleship. To be a follower of Christ requires what Webster refers to as “a considerable departure from the usual; extreme.”  To be a follower of Christ demands a radical, yes an extreme commitment. We must relinquish the negative attitudes and behavior we possess.  Even philosophical possessions may stand in the way of being good disciples.

Many of us have had experiences in our lives that have given us negative perceptions of other people of other racial ethnic backgrounds. Our attitudes have been shaped by history, cultural context and the stories we have heard from family members and friends. 

When I tried out for Law Review we were using anonymous submissions for the papers. I was told this was to help increase the potential for women and minorities to get selected. There was some suspicion that this process was necessary. I was assigned NUMBER 17.  When I, an African American woman, showed up at the Dean’s Office as NUMBER 17 the questions and surprised looks confirmed in my mind that the process served it purpose. It was not until I after shared my story in a racial reconciliation workshop that I realized I carried some restrained frustration about that for many years.  

My law school story was not life altering. There are millions of tragic stories about systemic racism and the relationships between persons of different racial ethnic identities. Our history stays with us. Getting over it is not a solution. As an ambassador of racial reconciliation, my prayer is that those who profess to be disciples of Christ will pray for the strength to build new relationships. Pray for the strength to forgive. Pray for the wisdom and understanding that empowers you to step out on faith to build bridges across the racial divides.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you to make a radical commitment to an extreme makeover. 

Rev.  Brenda Girton Mitchell

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