Moving Beyond Racial Reconciliation...

In Matthew 25:31-46  Jesus unpacks a scene where folks are being divided into to (2) Groups...the Sheep and the Goats. The Sheep are the folks who took care of the thirsty, hungry, sick and imprisoned.  The Goats are the folks who did not.

A dear friend of mine asked me how to connect this passage of scripture to our current discussions around Racial Reconciliation in the church...  Below are my thoughts.

First, there is Homogeneity.  Homogeneity simply means we all prefer to be around people who are like us.  So we tend to make choices/decisions to assure that we are around people like us.  This is not bad in and of itself, but it has the unintended consequence of making it more difficult for us to develop real relationships with people who are not like us because we do not spend any meaningful time with people who are not like us...

Second, there is Rugged Individualism which is one of the core ideas that helped shape America.  Rugged Individualism is the idea that everyone has the opportunity (and responsibility) to achieve success on their own if they work hard enough.  Rugged Individualism has influenced people to prioritize their own personal material comfort and success often to the detriment of others, (particularly those who are not like them).  Rugged Individuals work hard and often hoard resources to assure that they have enough (even an excess) of what they need for themselves and their families.

I believe both Homogeneity and Rugged Individualism can help explain why the Goats didn't take care of the thirsty, hungry, sick and imprisoned in Matthew 25:31-46 but I believe both are why there is still a racial divide in the church (and in this country) today.

Why the Church is Still so Divided…

As indicated, Homogeneity sets us up to only have real and meaningful relationships with people who are like us. We then tend to objectify people who are not like us, because we develop uninformed biases and assumptions about them them.  

Rugged Individualism has us working to get resources so that we have enough for our own (and our family's) material comfort and success, often with little regard for anyone else...particularly those who are not like us.   

So when we read what Jesus is saying to in Matthew 25, this is what I think is really going on in our minds and hearts that we don't say out loud: 

"You thirsty, hungry, sick people, you need to work hard like I did so you can get your own water food and healthcare OR... 

You folks in Jail shouldn’t have done the crime.  If you would have gotten an education you could have a good job and you wouldn't be out here stealing, selling drugs etc OR...

I worked hard to get the things need for me and my family, so I am not going to waste them on you people who don't deserve it..."

IF... instead we had real relationships with people who are not like us, (particularly who are thirsty, hungry, sick and imprisoned) we would become more informed about the reality of their lives and the challenges they face that are often due to circumstances beyond their control.  We might then develop compassion and get involved in ending their suffering and the circumstances that cause it...

IF... we better understood what it means to be a follower of Jesus, we would believe what he says in Matthew 6:25-31, about seeking first the Kingdomwhich means finding our role in demonstrating God's love for people. We might then live our lives for the thirsty, hungry, sick and imprisoned like Jesus did.   

Moving Beyond Racial Reconciliation…

Racial Reconciliation is a dated term that is rooted in the idea that racism lives primarily in the minds and hearts of bigoted people. While that is true for a small percentage of people in America, Racism is so much more than that.  

Racism created the segregated neighborhoods and the homogeneous social networks we live in; which has left us to develop uninformed biases and assumptions about people who are not like us.

Racism segregated the schools to assure that generations of Black people would not have access to a quality education and the life improvement opportunities that education provides no matter how hard they worked.

Racism is literally the reason we are divided into black churches and white churches (see Richard Allen & Absalom Jones). 

Racism has shaped every aspect of American society; and while it does exist in the minds and hearts of some, it is perpetuated by our social economic and political systems; and it is this systemic perpetuation that continues to do the most harm today.  

I don't need to be reconciled with the many White friends I have...our relationships are real and meaningful.  However I do need the many White friends I have to understand that even if they don’t wake up every day with malice and ill-will in their hearts and minds, Racism has kept them complicit in its perpetuation. 

I need the many "white" friends I have to understand that by not doing anything proactive to better understand Racism and the impact it has had on them, they will continue to be complicit in its perpetuation.    
While Racial Reconciliation is the necessary first step to help us develop real relationships with people who are not like us, we have to move beyond reconciliation and begin working together to dismantle the social political and economic systems that perpetuate Racism...only then will we see a truly united church.   

Robert Caldwell is the Executive Director of and has been a practitioner and thought leader on the issues of poverty & race for more than 25 years.  Visit 


  1. Robert, you continue to provoke my thought process...miss talking with you.

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