How, Exactly, Does One Reconcile?

by Christine Sine

by Brenda Salter McNeil

Brenda Salter McNeil

It’s time for the followers of Jesus to embark on the prophetic journey that leads to reconciliation and transformation around the world. Many of us may already be aware of the need for reconciliation in our own backyard. We understand the realities playing out in our own neighborhood, our school, workplace, political system and culture at large. But a lot of us don’t recognize the prophetic role we can play both at home and abroad. We aren’t yet fully aware of injustices and inequality in our communities, and this understanding and awareness is absolutely essential if we are to be God’s agents of reconciliation. We cannot ignore the plight of the people around us, and as globalization continues its relentless march onward, we cannot turn a blind eye to the world beyond our national borders either. We have to face the realities here at home, and we must also embrace the stories of people all around the world.


There is a growing group of young Christian leaders who long to heed this prophetic call to local and global reconciliation. And many of us have tried desperately over the years to build communities of reconciliation on our own, relying on “trial and error” and a mix of reconciliation models like “embracing cultural diversity” and “tolerance-based education.” But these models haven’t been sustainable in the long run and have left Christian leaders feeling depleted and doubting that we can actually lead people to the kingdom vision of racial, ethnic and gender reconciliation.

We need a clear sense of direction. Where are we going and how will we get there? We can see the inequality and the injustice in our lives and in the world, and we are ready to rise up. But . . . how? How, exactly, do we do this? How, exactly, does one reconcile? What is the process? What are the practical steps? We see the need, and we believe we have been called to reconciliation, but we don’t know how to go about it. We lack the tools, models and practical examples that can show us the way forward. We don’t know where to start or what the process entails. We need a roadmap to guide us through common points of interest and past the social terrain and political boundaries that will arise as we journey together and encounter challenging questions like these:

  • How do we reconcile with our next-door neighbor?
  • How do we reconcile with our coworkers or the folks at church?
  • How do we respond to current events?
  • How do we hold differing life experiences in tension?
  • How do we embrace diversity in our communities?
  • How do we reconcile with laborers in other countries who are being paid an unfair wage to make our clothes? Or the aid workers and missionaries abroad who might be doing more harm than good? How do we reconcile with people in India or Pakistan or Russia whom we have never met but whose lives intersect with ours in ways both big and small through our consumerism and social media?

With more than twenty-five years of consulting experience with churches, colleges and organizations, I’ve been calling people to reconciliation for a long time, but in some ways I’ve been remiss because I haven’t fully explained how to go about it. It’s like telling your kids that they need to make their own dinner when you’ve never taught them how to cook! So I’ve developed a groundbreaking model that I call the Reconciliation Roadmap. Certainly there have been various methods used for reaching harmony before this one, but this approach is a proven process that is based on years of research, practical experience and qualitative data. While I believe it can be applied to all areas of reconciliation, I will focus in this book on the specifics of racial and ethnic reconciliation.

The Reconciliation Roadmap is both individual and systemic. It deals with personal relationships and larger social realities. I’ve used spiritual, psychological, cultural and social strategies to build this model with a practical framework that will help people participate in God’s reconciling work together.

This is the book I always wished I had when working in reconciliation. Much of what I learned about leading people in this process was gained through trial and error. Now I want to share the principles I’ve learned to empower you, the everyday reconciler—the person of God who understands the need for reconciliation and wants to take action. This is also a prophetic call to the church for this time and this unique season. My hope is that this model will illuminate and energize our imagination for what is possible, so together we can create a new reality of reconciliation in various communities around the world.

—Adapted from the Introduction to: Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice


This post is part of our October series Living Into the Shalom of God, and was sponsored by InterVarsity Press.

Leave a Comment