In September 2015, the Lord opened the door for my participation in what has become a dramatic and powerful instrument for cultivating peace between law enforcement officers and the African American communities they serve. In the context of those tense and troubled days, a senior vice president of a local Fortune 500 company invited me to include police officers in their philanthropic efforts to repair homes in low-income areas.
The strategy involved bringing police officers and community members together at a local church for a relaxed, enjoyable dinner on a Friday night, and then having them volunteer to help repair a home in that community the next day. We launched the initiative nationally in April 2017, and for more than two years, we’ve hosted 23 events in such cities as Charlotte, North Carolina; Cleveland, Ohio; St. Louis and Ferguson, Missouri, Indianapolis, Indiana; and more.
The results have been profound. Each dinner typically begins in a climate of awkwardness and tension, but consistently ends with an atmosphere like that of a family reunion with everyone laughing and hugging. We have repeatedly found that when two people voluntarily break bread together, and then sweat together, it tears down barriers and builds bridges. You can read more about the Building Community initiative here and here.
Several dynamics are at work in these events. First, food and fellowship—both have long been effective instruments for strengthening relationships. It is difficult to harbor hostile feelings toward someone when you are sharing a meal and laughs together. The same can be said of joining hands to offer aid and assistance. It is difficult to be at odds with someone when you are working together to help another in need.
Another dynamic also at work is applying the Kingdom priorities of “making peace” between adversaries (Matt 5:9) and “doing good” for those in need (Matt 5:16). When we prioritize Christ the King’s Kingdom agenda, He consistently blesses those efforts.
However, you don’t have to serve as a police chaplain to make peace and do good. In your own community you could partner with a church to bring struggling sides together for a time of fun, food and fellowship. You might even identify a service project that brings them together to help someone in need.
Again, when two people voluntarily break bread together, and then sweat together, it breaks down barriers and builds bridges.
Published September 10, 2020