OUR OPINION: The ‘heart change’ makes our reconciliation possible

The North Carolina Council of Churches, a non-profit, ecumenical organization working for racial/ethnic justice, has published a series of devotions for Lent linking racial reconciliation with the personal reconciliation Christians seek during the Lenten season.

The Rev. Joseph Brown Sr., pastor, presiding elder, Dunn-Lillington District, A.M.E. Zion Church, Fayetteville, N.C., wrote part of the devotions, keying on a well-known passage from the New Testament Letter to Romans (Romans 10):

“‘The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.’”

And, also:

“ … for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3)

Brown writes, “The great opportunity for salvation is available to all persons. This God, this Jesus, is God of all regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin. Everyone who calls will be saved, moral or immoral, just or unjust, rich or poor, pretty or ugly, sick or well. Anyone who cries out with a deep-rooted call from the heart could be elevated to a Utopian experience on earth.”

“It appears at times that there are those among us who proclaim salvation …(but it is) separated from how we treat others who are different from us racially. … I further submit that, in line with Paul’s words, there can be no racial reconciliation until there is a Jesus experience,” Brown writes.

Many southerners, especially but not exclusively white people, have had real difficulty with what Brown says is necessary: “a heart change.”

The South, overwhelmingly Christian in its self-identity, has a hard time surrendering “our lives to Jesus Christ,” as Brown writes.

If God through Calvary pardons, Brown writes, “when that love flourishes within us, we will find ourselves looking beyond other people’s color, where they came from, and where they live, and embrace them as we were embraced at Calvary.”