Leroy Barber’s new book Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World inspired me. Though I usually read through a book in a few days, this was one that demanded much more of my time and my attention. Its call to reconciliation across race, gender and social strata is both a challenging and an essential one. I am still grappling with statements like: Standing up for your enemy changes the rules in the room. It makes people rethink situations and give an opportunity for love to rule the moment. (116) It is easy for me to respond in words alone when deep down I know that action and engagement is required.
Leroy Barber does not just write about the need for reconciliation, it has been the center of his life journey. I love the way that he shares stories out of his own journey as a framework for challenging all of us to engage more fully in God’s bridge-building work of love and reconciliation.
The uncomfortable questions Leroy asks often had me rethinking how I engage the important issues he raises. The following passage in particular is one that I know I will be grappling with for a long time:
So can we create traditions and practices that are both kingdom focused and inclusive? Are there practices that we – as followers of Christ – might do to include our brothers and sisters that happen to look, talk, act, and worship differently than we do? Can we establish traditions that might bless those around us who are not followers of Christ, practices that might help us grow to know our neighbors and other members of our communities? Can we be intentional about creating opportunities for just being friends with the folks around us, even if they are not the people we would have chosen or the place isn’t where we’d really like to be?
What, I wonder, are the traditions I need to create and enable others to create in order to be more inclusive? How do I add new people to my sacred spaces so that those I have previously excluded become more human to me?
The call to be inclusive, to stand up for those that are different and to seek to bring true peace and unity to a world that desperately needs it is indeed a call to radical shalom living. This book is an essential read for anyone who takes the call to follow Jesus seriously.
This post is part of our October theme Living Into the Shalom of God and was sponsored by InterVarsity Press.