The Miracle of Reconciliation- and How Love Makes it Possible
I had the great privilege of listening to Dr. John Perkins speak recently, about reconciliation, and how love is the answer. His message was moving and powerful- and I couldn’t keep it to myself. I had to share some of his story and some of the highlights of his talk with you.
Dr. John Perkins is a leader in the American civil rights movement. At 85 year’s old, he holds 13 honorary doctorate degrees- honors for his tireless work towards justice and reconciliation.
His story is deeply moving. Orphaned at a young age, the son of sharecroppers in Mississippi, a child of poverty, who dropped out of school in the third grade, he experienced the heartache of racism and police brutality first hand.
His brother was murdered in a racist incident by the town’s sheriff when he was 17. After that, he left Mississippi and went to California, where he led a successful life, and where he came to know the saving grace of the gospel of Christ. He later returned to Mississippi to fight for justice and equality.
In 1969, following a protest march, John was arrested. He was tortured in jail until he almost died. This propelled him toward the work he has since dedicated his life towards, with his focus on racial reconciliation.
“My deepest desire has been that the reconciling love that God displayed on the cross would spread into all the world, and that somehow I could participate in that mission.” –Dr. John Perkins
On Sunday, I heard the story of Dr. Perkins' time in jail when he was tortured. What happened was horrific and should never happen to anyone. But he said that he realized, when it was happening, that his hatred towards his tormentors was equally horrific. He would have killed them in that moment if he could have. Many would say the feeling was justified. But John couldn’t get a certain scripture out of his mind. It was the one that said,
Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
And this was hard. He didn’t want to forgive them. Then he explained how the redemptive power of love made it possible for him to do just that. He said, about the white doctors in the hospital, where he was fighting for his life, that they “loved me beyond me own rejection of them “.
Dr. Perkins went on to say that he was now standing on the shoulders of these men. They had entered into his pain and had loved him. This is what we’re all called to do. Love is the final fight (which, by the way, is the name of one of Dr. Perkins books).
The gospel was designed to reconcile people to God and each other, across boundaries. –Dr. Perkins
We need each other. This is the heart of the gospel. We needed Jesus to reconcile us to God-and as we become more like Jesus; we get to participate in the mission of reconciliation with others.
The heart of the talk I listened to was about reconciliation through forgiveness. The point was made that the redemptive process also involves entering into the pain of other people. We need to be like Jesus, who, through his incarnation, entered into our pain. We need to be like Moses, who entered into the pain of the Israelites, when he could have stayed and enjoyed a posh life in the palace. We need to be like the Good Samaritan, or Paul...examples of those who entered into the pain of others to bring reconciliation.
The question was asked, at church, in front of the predominately white audience, of what we should know, about the pain that many black Americans are currently facing right now. Here is what Dr. Perkins said,
“The fact that young black people can even ask whether “Black Lives Matter”…. that is coming from a broken place. Life is not a question. It’s a statement. Life is the strongest statement you can make about God. In Him is life.” –Dr. John Perkins
We’re all broken, equally, together. Let's not turn a blind eye to what's happening in our nation right now. As followers of Christ, as the church, we need to be on Christ's mission, to bring healing and reconciliation to all people.
I was inspired and challenged by Dr. Perkin’s words. I hope that I was able to convey enough of an idea, of what he said, to inspire you, too. If you want to listen to the whole talk, you can do so, here.
In the process of writing this post, I came across a couple of videos on Dr. John Perkins. I’ll leave them here for you. I really love the Switchfoot video! It was inspired by, and features, Dr. Perkins.
There is no song
Louder than love
Quotes in this post are taken from,