On earth as it is in heaven

In the Book of Revelation, we get to peer through the curtain into the New Creation just behind the veil. In that coming soon future we see,

“After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb!”
Revelation 7:9

In that vision, we see Jesus’ earthly prayer finally fully answered, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 italics ours). We see the final fulfillment of the Abrahamic Promise and the conclusion of the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.

One aspect of this vision is a peaceable kingdom, in which all the families of the earth live together in blessed communion. It is a world in which racism has been healed.

We think words like racial reconciliation, equality, and anti-racism don’t go far enough to describe the kind of koinonia community envisioned here. What Martin Luther King Jr called “the beloved community.” We also both have much personal experience with how certain words immediately shut down conversations that could lead to healing.

Healing Racialization

Racialization refers to the larger reality of harmful stereotypes, ideas, policies, and structures, that divides human beings made in the image of God into race categories. We believe God’s ultimate desire for this sin-warped way to structure the world is healing. “We have been given this ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:81) and one aspect of this reconciliation is healing among all the tribes and peoples of the earth.  

In our new book Doing Justice Together, we offer a pathway for the healing of racialization. We believe churches can and must be a key instrument in this work.

In the face of the realities of racialization, to form beloved communities that heal, it requires the people of God to… “do justice together.”

We draw this phrase from the prophet Micah, who was crying out against the injustices of his own day…

He has told you, O mortal, what is good,
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice and to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8-9 (italics ours) 

To “do justice” is not a passive posture. It requires prayerful action. The death-dealing features of racialization will not simply disappear or vanish if we ignore them long enough. It requires the people of God to live the kind of life that Micah envisions, and to do so in community—together.

Expanding Circles

In the book we offer a careful, grace-filled pathway for the healing of racialization. We believe that this is a journey that will most likely never be complete in this life. This journey can be understood as a series of circles, each which may be widening simultaneously at different paces. Doing Justice Together occurs in the mandorla, the sacred space where the circles overlap. The circles for healing racialization involves:

  1. Antiracist Discipleship: A prayerful process of engagement with Biblical and historical sources that helps congregations go on a journey of metanoia (a transformation of heart and mind, i.e. repentance). This is a journey of unlearning racist ideas, actions, and policies, to replace them with Biblical, antiracist ideas, actions, and polices (Gal 3:28). This equates to ongoing sanctification in the lifelong journey of grace.
  2. Shared Leadership: A prayerful process of sharing power, in which persons of color inhabit equal positions of leadership throughout the congregation/organization/society (Acts 6:1-7). This moves beyond the current multicultural church movement which often still operates under the assumptions of white supremacy. 
  3. Justice-Oriented Expressions: A prayerful journey of cultivating new Christian communities throughout a parish or region, which have an internal motivation to include diversity (Lk 10:1-9). These communities make one aspect of their life a commitment to healing racialization. These emerging communities live in a blended ecology with inherited congregations. This movement combines social justice and contextual church planting.
  4. Reorganizing Structures: A prayerful, strategic, and cooperative effort of congregations to join other activists, groups, organizations, and faith communities to challenge identified features of structural racism in local, regional, and national systems (Micah 6:8).     

We have chosen expanding circles as our primary image based on the insights of African theologian Mercy Amba Oduyoye…

        A Circle expands forever.
        It covers all who wish to hold hands
        And its size depends on each other.
        It is a vision of solidarity
        It turns outward to interact with the outside
        And inward for self-critique.
        A Circle expands for ever
        It is a vision of accountability
        It grows as the other is moved to grow
        A Circle must have a centre
        But a single dot does not make a Circle
        One tree does not make a forest
        A Circle, a vision for cooperation, mutuality and care
        Does not harbor exclusiveness.”[1]

Each circle of the healing racialization pathway is not a stage we complete, but rather an ever-expanding sphere of inclusion that will inevitably wrap the cosmos in healing love. Circles that ripple forth into the new creation. Circles that expand through and beyond the beloved community. Circles that encapsulate both the personal and communal dimensions of sanctifying grace.

To preorder the book, visit here. Bulk order pricing is available for congregations and annual conferences. To learn more about the Fresh Expressions movement, and access videos to help seed the imagination for a blended ecology in your congregation, visit our new Amplify channel.

We hope these resources help make the world a place where racial equity, justice, and liberation are intrinsic to the structure and life of the church. We believe the church can prayerfully and intentionally transform itself into a fresh expression of God’s love for all. We believe we can become an imperfect microcosm of Jesus’s prayer—that God’s kingdom will come, and God’s will be done—“on earth as it is in heaven.”

[1] Mercy Amba Oduyoye, “The Story of a Circle” (Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians), The Ecumenical Review 53, no. 1 (Jan 2001): 97.

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