Hope in a New Year + One: Unity in a Divided World by Deidre Riggs
Integrity calls for me to see you from a sacred perspective. God never looks at you or at anyone else, and considers you worthless. What makes me think I am the judge of who is worthless or beyond God’s ability to redeem? I may not agree with your perspective, but I can be for you. We can be for one another. -Deidre Riggs
The language we use when we talk about others and about ourselves, correlates directly to the condition of our hearts. If there is division in our hearts, our language will perpetuate division in our culture and in the world around us. -Deidre Riggs
All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one- to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. -Isaiah 53:6
It’s a powerful word.
I love the start of a new year because it often inspires hope. The year begs for us to look ahead, start fresh, and be hopeful of a bright future.
One of my favorite parts of the new year is hearing about other’s resolutions. I love to see how many are inspired to start a new routine, cut something from their lives, or change something for the better. It’s inspiring and uplifting- it’s powerful to be around that kind of energy and rejuvenation.
Even though I don’t always participate in New Year’s Resolutions, this year I did decide to “Be Kind to Myself”. It’s not necessarily a specific day-to-day task, but it does allow me to check in weekly to see where or if I’m being kind to myself- giving myself grace. I already have a lovely reminder written above my bathroom mirror for each morning.
With the hope of a new year, comes the reminder of the ultimate hope that comes through Jesus- every day and always. Jesus ultimately brings hope to a fallen world- a world that is still yearning to know Him. A world that needs hope. A world that needs truth. A world that needs unity in love.
And that’s why I’m excited to share my winter 2018 favorite book- to start off this year with some hope.
Winter Reading Choice 2018
My winter reading choice for 2018 is a book I wrestled to get through. It’s a challenging read not because it’s difficult reading material, but because it challenged me. I was also struggling to find time to really sit down and pour into reading this book because I wanted my brain wrapped up in it. I wanted my eyes and heart wide open.
The book challenged me to look at the barriers I’ve put up in my own life, to look at the labels I’ve given others (knowingly or unknowingly), to really pray about where my heart needs to be broken, humbled, and where I need to be open to a conversation rather than accusation.
Deidre Riggs’ book, One: Unity in a Divided World addresses several issues of division within Western culture and the church. She specifically addresses the big divisions we see in our lives and in the media on a day-to-day basis: race, politics, religion, and the division within ourselves.
Riggs wants readers to delve back into God’s Word, to re-evaluate Jesus’ own life and teachings on reconciliation and unity- to see that Jesus’ example isn’t one of self-preservation, but rather it is one that loves others sacrificially.
Love precedes reconciliation.
Reconciliation is one way for us to turn toward oneness, but it also our choice (Riggs).
Jesus said that the world would know us by our love for one another- not because of our political leanings, background, race, denomination, or other forms of division. Riggs challenges her readers to look within themselves and to recognize and repair the barriers and walls we’ve put up by looking to Jesus’ example.
Riggs states that she’s been desiring to write this book for a long time. She’s seen the division in churches: black and white since she was two years old. She has since grown to see division in other areas beyond race- division that each man has created within himself and put up barriers to keep others afar.
She delves into some present-day issues that really hit at the heart of the matter. She mentions visiting Ferguson, Missouri after the fatal shooting of a black man by a police officer. She also alludes to some other forms of division that we continue to see in politics based on who is President, or who is in power, and to some more recent terror events.
I found this to be a bold move. Riggs doesn’t hold back in giving real-life examples, and I believe that she was also transparent in recognizing and admitting that she doesn’t have all the facts- only God does. She brings her own background knowledge and understanding of events into her writing. She shares her struggle with her own bias and how she’s labeled people or gotten angry with how others may not see things the way she does.
If our holy convictions require us to make enemies of others, malign others, dehumanize others, or otherwise minimize another person’s humanity, it’s time to check in to see if we’re really truly serving the Jesus of the Bible. (Riggs).
I appreciated that she shared her own experience in sitting down with someone who held a different political standpoint. From that conversation, she learned that this person had different concerns than she did. It wasn’t that this person’s concerns were wrong or not important, but it was that this person was bringing their own background and experiences to the table. And she brought hers. From that conversation, she learned something and the other person did too. There was respect and love in the way they went about having a conversation about their differences.
When I mistake my position on an issue as being critical to my identity, I’ve let these differences stand between me and others in the body of Christ (Riggs).
Riggs is also bold about addressing justice. The need for justice is clear in our world, and there is a lot of anger that flows from a lack of visible justice. One of my favorite quotes from the book, which I feel addresses many issues in the world and within our own small circle of friends and family is as follows,
When we set out to exact justice, there is always the risk of miscalculation. Driven by our emotions, we may mete out more than what is required to even score. How do we know just how much justice is the exact right amount? Limited by our perspective, we may target the wrong person or assign the incorrect value to an offense. Only God has a perfect track record with regard to justice. He is the only One who knows every detail of every situation that causes us pain and grief- even people’s unspoken thoughts and motivations… (Riggs).
I think this quote from Riggs’ book brings to life that God is the ultimate judge. He sees all, He knows all. And even if justice is misgiven or isn’t given to the right people, He is the ultimate One who knows and sees all to properly judge.
When we move to the seat of mercy, we move ourselves out of the way, and we make way for God’s perfect administration of justice. Moving to the mercy seat does not indicate willingness to ignore justice altogether. No. Moving to the mercy seat acknowledges the truth that only God can administer justice perfectly. Moving to the mercy seat lets God be God (Riggs).
There were points in the book, where I wish that Riggs would have elaborated or would have specifically gone into detail from a different perspective. As someone who is closely tied to the law enforcement community, I did feel that Riggs didn’t fully understand the perspective of a police officer, but I think she would be a wonderful person to sit down and chat with over these recent events.
As a sister in Christ, I think Deidre Riggs did a terrific job pointing out that we need to love first before reconciliation can happen. And with love, comes the recognition of the need for humility and grace. We need to build authentic relationships with those around us by listening, communicating, and loving one another even when we disagree.
Jesus is ultimately the perfect example of putting love first before reconciliation. Even though we are the ones in the wrong with God, due to our sin, Jesus is the one who left his place in heaven so that we could be reconciled to the Father. He didn’t wait for us to make the first move, he chose to take the first step in love. Reconciliation to God is ultimately placed back into our hands. Reconciliation is always a choice.
Jesus was the perfect conduit to reconcile us to God. We aren’t able to reconcile people to God. We aren’t perfect as Jesus was. But we can work toward living in harmony with others (Riggs).
As I look into this new year, my hope remains in Jesus. There may be chaos, there may be tension, and there is always the unknown of what lies ahead, but God is speaking and moving in the midst of chaos.
May we move with boldness and love because of the hope we hold in Jesus.
Baker Publishing Group. “One by Deidre Riggs.” YouTube. Baker Publishing Group. 28 February 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgDZJCKPKaQ. 10 January 2018.
MandisaVevo. “Bleed the Same.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. Mandisa. 11 May 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEzCQBwQkdA. 10 January 2018.
Riggs, Deidre. One: Unity in a Divided World. Ebook Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Books. 2017.
Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash