A Book that Brings Hope for Racial Reconciliation (Book Review)

Lewis, Dhati. Advocates: The Narrow Path to Racial Reconciliation. B&H Books, Nashville, TN. 2019. 160 pages.

Growing up, I was ignorant of the racial divide and issues plagued in history and present with current events. Then, in Bible college I took a course called “Culture, Race, and the Church”. My eyes were opened to the racism that had not yet died and to the racial inequality that still exists. I was made aware of the problem and reality of racism. Since that class, numerous news headlines have exposed how far we have to go in race relations. Even within the church, there is a hesitancy to bring up and address matters of race. Yet, what our culture needs is not for the church to be hesitant but to bring hope. That is the very thing Dhati Lewis brings forth in his new book Advocates: The Narrow Path to Racial Reconciliation.

A Biblical Path Forward

Whereas many conversations on the racial tension we see tend to bring heat, Dhati Lewis makes the focus of his book about examining our own hearts and how to engage the “personal, relational, and systemic issues of racial division” (Lewis xiv). Dhati is one who knows the issue well as a black man who is married to a white woman and serves as a pastor of a multiethnic church. He lays the foundation that his guide in dealing with these issues is the Bible and a the book is described as re-discovery of its rich content on this matter. The preface of the book is wisely filled with clarifying terms with biblical definitions of words like reconciliation and justice and explaining what it means to be biblically woke. It also provides disclaimers for the conversation presented in the book and emphasizes the importance of the local church for the health of the Christian.

The main section of the book is a call to Christians to pursue the path of racial reconciliation guided by the gospel. The book walks this path forward in four parts: (1) Awareness, (2) Vision, (3) Strategy, and (4) Courage. The author spends the better half of the pages putting forth the vision of what it means to be an advocate for a biblical understanding and pursuit of racial reconciliation, using the book of Philemon to show advocates rely on Christ (chapter 3), run to the tension (chapter 4), and respond with dignity (chapter 5). The book closes with an appendix on practical strategic initiatives on how to REP (Reflect Personally, Empathize Corporately, Pursue Reconciliation) Christ.

Being a Part of the Solution

From the opening pages of the book it is clear Dhati Lewis is interested in how to work toward the solution of racial reconciliation. He has done this in his church using the REP Christ paradigm. While it is tempting (and many tend) to be aggravators in discussions on the racial tension in our culture, Lewis shows throughout his writing how the testimony of Scripture calls for Christians to live out the gospel reality of being one in Christ and to talk about the vision in terms of what God is for, not what God is against, which impedes too many of the conversations at present. Dhati is honest in the issues surrounding the racial tension and humble that only by God’s strength and wisdom can those who advocate practice and persevere in racial reconciliation. (It is worth mentioning Lewis spends the majority of his time addressing the tension between blacks and whites in particular, although racial tensions with various other ethnic minorities are an important matter as well.)

A Late Mention

With rich biblical content throughout the book, I was surprised the book of Philemon doesn’t get mentioned until page 39. To be fair, the majority of part 2 of the book focuses primarily in Philemon. However, considering how the synopsis of the book was presented as using Philemon as a model (for example, see the back cover), I had expected to at least read a reference to Philemon at the very beginning of the book. In the end, though, Philemon was adequately used in the conversation and for the purpose of the book.

A Hopeful and Handlebar of a Book

Advocates: The Narrow Path to Racial Reconciliation by Dhati Lewis is sure to be a handlebar to steer church leaders and Christ-followers toward biblical solutions in conversations on racial reconciliation. As church leaders and believers listen and learn from the heartfelt lessons Dhati shares, they will find themselves examining their hearts and asking how they can be more intentional in serving as an ambassador of Christ in reconciliation. If you are someone, like me, who has become aware of the racial tensions and problems we are facing but needs courage and guidance on becoming an advocate who speaks up, then you will want to pick up this book of hope by Dhati Lewis.

I received this book from B&H/Lifeway Bloggers Program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

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