Affirmative action and human flourishing | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Affirmative action and human flourishing


WORLD Radio - Affirmative action and human flourishing

We’re breaking out all our tools to tackle a listener question on affirmative action. How do we unravel lasting consequences of cultural injustice? And what does it mean for human flourishing?

KELSEY REED: Hello. Welcome to Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast from WORLD Radio and God’s WORLD News. Our mission is to come alongside you, learning and laboring with you as you disciple kids and teens through culture and current events. My name is Kelsey Reed. I’m here with Jonathan Boes.


KELSEY: Together, we want to model conversation and apply tools that you can use at home or in the classroom. As always, we want to invite you to send your questions in to

JONATHAN: And speaking of questions, today we have a question from a listener. This one comes via email from Edward T. Lee. He writes:

Dear News Coaches,

Thanks for producing Concurrently! I enjoy listening to your podcast.

[Thank you, Ed!]

Several weeks ago, there were a lot of talks about affirmative action. As a Christian, how should we view affirmative action through the lens of the Bible? Could you help us analyze affirmative action using the SOAR method?

Thank you very much!


So thanks, Ed, for sending in this great question. And for throwing us a softball, I say sarcastically. But we’re excited to get into this today.

KELSEY: And we’re so thankful to hear, more than one listener at this point asked specifically for us to apply the tools that we’re seeking to transfer to you guys in your context at home or in the classroom. So Ed, you’ve specifically asked for SOAR today. Because of the fact that we’re not going to be looking at one specific piece of media, in order to take it through our primary process with SOAR, we’re going to use SOAR in interaction with the Big Five, as we like to call it, or Aristotle’s Five Common Topics, which—just to briefly outline what those are, and we may not get to all five of them—these are locations where you might bring the discussion at home or in the classroom. And so we’ll seek to bring the discussion into some of those locations today. Specifically, we’ll do some definition work. We’ll talk about the circumstances that go into our current understanding of what’s going on with affirmative action at the Supreme Court level right now, and some of what we understand is even flowing out of that. And we’ll also discuss what’s happened in historical context for these decisions, and what our current “flavor” is, in our nation, regarding affirmative action. And then we’ll move into, after that work, which—we might call that “observation work”—we’ll go into more of those analytical locations, where we compare and contrast this topic area with other related areas as well. And then we’ll move from there into what a discipleship response looks like. So SOAR interacting with our Big Five today.

JONATHAN: So Ed’s question—he sent this to us a few weeks ago. And in his question, he’s pointing back to discussions that were happening a few weeks even before he sent the message. So we have to kind of cast our minds back to the month of June, when SCOTUS ruled in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard that race-based affirmative action in college admissions violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. So this, of course, is in the United States, the Supreme Court saying basically that it’s unconstitutional for colleges to consider race as a factor in whether to admit a new student. So in light of Ed’s question and those conversational tools you just laid out for us, Kelsey, we’re going to explore this topic, and hopefully open some doors to good conversations that you, listener, can pursue with your kids, teens, and students.

KELSEY: I think I use a certain amount of license that I gained from that conversation with Collin and Juliana several months back to lean into Wikipedia as one of those sources where we can get a fully-orbed definition with a number of footnotes to chase down after. So right out the gate, I’m bringing my definition from the Wikipedia article on affirmative action. And so I’m going to give that outright, and suggest that you also look at it, listeners. See what you think about it as a resource. Does it hit all the dots? We found it to be pretty thorough. So we’re going to lean into that a little bit this morning for our definition. “In the United States, affirmative action consists of government mandated, government approved, and voluntary private programs that grant special consideration to historically excluded groups, specifically racial minorities and women. These programs tend to focus on access to education and employment in order to redress the disadvantages associated with past and present discrimination. Another goal of affirmative action is to ensure that public institutions, such as universities, hospitals, and police forces are more representative of the populations that they serve.”

JONATHAN: And so one of the things that definition brings out right away is that the idea of affirmative action is applied in a lot of broad and different ways. It could be a government action, it could be the action of a private institution, it might be about race, it could also be about gender, and I think even other things that this Wikipedia definition doesn’t even necessarily get into. And also that it’s rooted both in history and in present issues. And so we will, I think, explore each of those aspects a little more as we talk. But I think what this definition does for me is, it helps kind of broaden the scope of the discussion, while also setting some limits for it.

KELSEY: It gives me the lay of the land. So that’s what we’re doing when we do that survey work, is trying to get the full scope as much as possible, and then follow our thinking on from there. So in terms of our next section, we’re moving straight into observe, now that we have the big picture kind of defined. So one of the first places that we observe affirmative action at work in history is actually during the Reconstruction Era of the South, that being those years between 1863 and 1877. And you may be familiar with this idea of “40 acres and a mule” policy that came out of Sherman’s proposals of how we would restore black families and really do work to put them in a place where they could flourish. Now, it was struck down and revoked by President Andrew Johnson. And that never really came to fruition in the way that Sherman conceptualized it, but that was where the very first roots of this idea came into being.

JONATHAN: And a lot of the ways that we see affirmative action in its current form, where that evolved from, a lot of that comes from the 1960s, with an executive order signed by President Kennedy, that employers should basically take “affirmative action” to ensure that applicants are employed without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin. Now zooming forward to the present moment, we see that affirmative action has become, really, quite a culturally divisive issue.

So take a real quick step back. This is, again, one of those topics where we want to speak carefully and with humility, because it’s another one of those places where even Christians come to different conclusions. It’s a dicey issue with a lot of history and where—we talk about it in these big historical terms, but there are real lives in play, people’s education and employment wrapped up in this, and so much history related to people’s culture and families and generations. And so we want to speak of these things with that in mind, that we’re not just talking about ideas, but about people, and people made in the image of God. But we see that this is a divisive issue. So in today’s political climate, Republicans tend to be against considerations of race in college admissions, which is what the Supreme Court case was about. And even Democrats—in a report from Pew, it showed that Democrats only support it narrowly. 54% of Democrats were in favor of college admissions taking race into consideration. And in this year’s SCOTUS opinion, we see some of the current thinking on this issue coming out of the Supreme Court. They are looking back at the history of affirmative action, specifically in college admissions, and their conclusion, looking at previous court cases, was that these affirmative action programs were meant to comply with strict scrutiny, they were meant to never use race as a stereotype or in a negative capacity to keep people out of education, and that, at some point, affirmative action was actually supposed to end, and this thing was essentially supposed to run on its own. It was supposed to get to the point where it no longer had to be a mandated thing, but that this inclusivity and diversity would just be a natural part of the process. Essentially, SCOTUS—SCOTUS, being short for “Supreme Court of the United States”—found that affirmative action in current college admissions, specifically in Harvard and the University of North Carolina, failed to meet these restrictions.

KELSEY: It’s interesting, as we begin to point back and forth to what the original intent was, where it came out of in history, and the current flavor or processes that are related to this policy of affirmative action, we even see, between the 1961 efforts of JFK versus 1963 with Lyndon Johnson, a real switch happen, where it was not just, “Hey, you won’t keep people out of the workplace, out of the educational environment because of a race or ethnicity” consideration, but moving through to where this idea of affirmative action had this proactive quality to it—where we were going to seek inclusivity, seek diversity, be proactively engaged in placing people of diverse backgrounds into schools, workplaces, institutions. So just even in a two-year period, the switch of this model, to try to seek a cultural shift within institutions.

JONATHAN: And what you’re highlighting there, I think, points to a concept that is really helpful, even beyond this discussion, which is the idea of positive laws versus negative laws. Not positive and negative in the sense of good or bad, but the idea of negative laws being, “Don’t do this, you can’t do this, you can’t steal, you can’t murder”—those are negative laws that we all acknowledge to be very obvious, necessary laws for preserving liberty. But then there are positive laws, where you’re not just saying, “Don’t do this.” You’re actually telling people, “You need to do this.” So you know, “You need to file your taxes.” That’s a positive law that is enforced in our country. And maybe we’re dipping our toes a little bit into analysis here, but once you start getting into that realm of positive laws—not just creating protections or saying, “Don’t do this,” but actually telling people, “Do this”—you’ve entered a new realm where you need to be really careful. And a lot of political scholars I believe would really caution—especially conservative political scholars would really caution—laws taking place in that positive realm.

KELSEY: If we look at what SCOTUS is engaging here, we see that they are looking at it through these lenses of—have we created space for people to flourish, and to act out of their conscience, and to engage in their civic duty, in their professional and personal lives, with a high respect for the other citizenry of our country, for the promotion of others? Or have we mandated it to the place where we’ve eclipsed conscience? And so I appreciate thinking through those categories, of the positive mandates or policies or legislation versus the legislation or policies that merely say, “Do not do this.” And that provides me with very helpful categories for evaluating this process and the litigation that will continue to flow out of this process. One of the things you observe, I think, in this historical arc as well, is that these molds, as they were, these policies that were seeking to mold a cultural shift and response, they are also policies that factored women in the workplace into it, those with disabilities—it continued to bring more underprivileged persons and individuals to where they would have greater privilege to engage in those areas that were often restricted to a very smaller class of people.

JONATHAN: If we’re ready to move into analysis, since the specific story that we are rooting this in has to do with that race-based affirmative action in the education system—specifically in that arena—the way I’ve thought about it is, it’s important to uncouple the problem and the solution, so that we can talk about both separately. Because—this is kind of an observation still—one thing I observe is that critiques of affirmative action are often taken as dismissals of the problem that affirmative action is trying to address. And sometimes they are dismissing that problem, and maybe that’s part of where that reaction comes from. But it’s hard to talk about potential issues with affirmative action without being perceived as not caring about real problems of racial bias or discrimination. And so I think it’s important to acknowledge, there’s one realm where we’re talking about the real problems, historically and presently, of racism of racial bias, of discrimination. But then there’s the other realm of, okay, so how are we going to address those problems? And just because we might levy critiques at a certain solution, or you might levy critiques at a certain solution, doesn’t mean you don’t see that as a problem worthy of a solution. And in fact, if we are unwilling to criticize our solutions—if we make a single solution, like affirmative action, a sacred cow that we can’t criticize at risk of seeming like we don’t care—then we might actually blind ourselves to ways that that solution fails or even makes the problem worse, in some circumstances. It’s important to be able to mentally uncouple the problem and the solution, so that we can actually find the best solution to the real problem.

KELSEY: You hear, in our efforts to really ground even our beginning forays into analysis in careful observation, and even splitting of threads—sometimes that can, at least for me, it clips my fluidity of speech. I slow down. I’m trying to carefully think through and choose my words, because it is worthy of that type of care. And I think it’s a good model for what we do at home and in the classroom, because these conversations by nature of their complexity, require us to do some thinking on our feet and some careful application of—What have we seen? What have we noticed? What is true? What is true of what is good, and what is true of what is broken?

Jonathan brought us through this recognition that the problem is real. It is not an illusion. There have been—and now that we’re in analysis, we’re going to do some of that comparison and contrast—there have been many issues over the course of the years, in multiple different institutions, where there was segregation and discrimination because of the color of somebody’s skin. I think of redlining in banks and real estate, and how in certain locations people were not able to receive mortgages. They could not get a loan on a house if they lived in a certain environment, which that neighborhood was characteristically of a certain color of people. And if you dive into it deeply, you come out with a lot of ugliness. And the same is obviously the case for schools, which is the majority of what our discussion is focused on, because we’re relating it to affirmative action, in this specific case with Harvard. But it was in churches, it was in banks, as I’ve said, in neighborhoods, in educational systems, everywhere you looked. There was a problem with how people were treated, whether they were treated as those with high value, or those who were spurned because of the color of their skin or their background.

JONATHAN: And definitely, some critiques of affirmative action failed to acknowledge that history and that complexity. You know, we can talk and disagree about the extent to which that history affects the present. But all those things have an effect on the here and now, when people are denied mortgages, when people are denied education. I mean, Ruby Bridges, who, you know, the famous photos of her being led by the National Guard, I believe, into school to enforce desegregation. You know, that’s not ancient history. She’s only 69 years old. People are living, flesh and blood, who grew up in the context of sinful laws that enforced discrimination based on the color of skin. So whether or not we think that’s, you know, a legitimate category, it was a category that was used for discrimination. So when we’re trying to deal with the lasting effects of those problems, there’s this desire not to default back into using those same categories. But it’s a question of, well, if we did awful things in the past based on those categories, whether or not they’re legitimate, how do we untangle them without reference to those categories? And can we? That’s difficult, if not impossible. Again, our old motto: It’s complicated. We need to acknowledge the fact that it’s messy and complicated. And if we are naturally inclined against affirmative action, we still need to take the time to acknowledge that it’s not this clean issue that we can easily just dismiss away with common sense. There’s a real history at play we need to acknowledge.

KELSEY: I know one of the terms that often comes up as we seek to understand the breadth of a problem, or whether or not it is a problem, is that we use this idea of whether there has been systemic racism, as in decisions that are made that are discriminatory against a person based on the color of their skin, within an institution. That is the best way that I can define it off the top of my head, this idea of systemic racism—something that is characterizing an entire system. And we really see that that is true of our nation, that there have been institutions that, at their core, have this brokenness in play. And if that brokenness is in the institution itself, the institution does need to go through repair of some kind.

JONATHAN: Yeah, and unfortunately, I think “systemic” has become a buzzword. I think a lot of people have been trained to hear that word and have an emotional reaction to it one way or the other. But we shouldn’t be surprised that broken, sinful people would create broken, sinful institutions. I think it’d be very—it’d be much more surprising the other way around, I think. When I look at what scripture says of mankind, it makes perfect sense that the systems we create would have problems and would require healing. And I think the question then is: How do we go about that healing? And that’s where things get a lot stickier.

KELSEY: That’s good analysis. And it is interesting, as you talk about that, how many philosophers come to mind that will argue that man is inherently broken, and therefore society is the thing that’s going to fix him. And I always—it’s this weird bug in my brain of going, “How, if society is made up of broken men, is society going to be the solution?” But that starts to push us a little bit more towards the response. And we’re not quite ready for that.

So we’ve discussed some of the nature of the problem and verified that it is a problem, and that it’s a problem in institutions, and that they need repair. But what about this idea, this policy of affirmative action itself? What if we seek to just analyze it? I know that you’ve looked at varied responses to it as a policy, and I wondered what you could share with us about what others are saying about affirmative action as a policy?

JONATHAN: Yeah, I mean, like we touched on, it’s an issue that is really divisive, that we see all sorts of different varied opinions on. And I think the most important aspect of that is that it’s really not just a “black and white” issue. There’s different people from all sorts of different racial and ethnic backgrounds coming at it with different perspectives. And one of the things that’s fascinating is that the case that went to the Supreme Court, it was Asian students who were saying they were being discriminated against by being kept out of certain positions in these schools. And the activist leading the case was the leader of the Students for Fair Admissions. He is actually a Jewish person. And if you look at his biography, one of the things that inspired him to kind of take up the mantle of challenging affirmative action was his childhood experiences of antisemitism against him and his family. And so what’s interesting is that you see that some of the people challenging these laws, at least they don’t appear to be just, you know, the privileged majority trying to enforce the status quo, but actually other minority groups who are worried about discrimination coming from affirmative action laws, which—maybe it’s a good place to note that sometimes affirmative action is even called “positive discrimination.”

KELSEY: And we see in there some of the reasons why SCOTUS made this decision that they made. And I feel like, as we pivot towards some of what we might affirm and challenge, it’s worthy to notice what it was that the Supreme Court was challenging in this case.

JONATHAN: One of the things the court was doing in their decision, when they were looking at Harvard and University of North Carolina, as they were looking at the goals that these schools had set out—which were things like, you know, creating a new generation of leaders—the court was saying, these are not results that we can quantify. We can’t look and see, “Oh, yeah, we’ve checked that off the list.” And so, to the court, that did not meet the strict requirements for race-based admissions decision making.

KELSEY: And it reminds me of our discussion that we had with Dr. Merriam, where he discussed, you know, what are the political powers for? What is the intention? And in each of the cases, it’s making space for the citizenry of our nation to flourish. And we talked about this a little bit when we talked about the proactive mandates versus those that are seeking to just nullify things like discrimination based on color. But the court is here trying to return to a space, it seems, where space is created for people to act out of a better-shaped conscience, but that they aren’t responsible for outcomes. We talk a lot about equity as an outcome we’re trying to see in our nation. And we have a lot of conflict over that idea of equity. And affirmative action really takes this idea of equity and can misinterpret what it is that we’re doing when we’re trying to provide equal opportunity, not necessarily create equitable outcomes, or other more intangible outcomes, like having a diversity of voices at the table so that leadership of our nation changes. Those are things that are hard to measure.

However, at the same time, when you create space like they’re seeking to do, or like it seems they’re seeking to do, it allows for institutions like the church—again, Dr. Merriam talked about this—to step in and do more of that qualitative work. We see in scripture—and we’re aligning our analysis with the pattern that we see modeled for us in scripture—that we are to go baptize people from every nation, tribe, and tongue, welcoming them all into this new community called the church, that is reflective best of the Father’s intention for His world, and what we will see also has an arc into the new heavens and the new Earth. The church gets to have that privileged place of welcoming that diversity into her body, for shaping and for affirming.

JONATHAN: So that starts to get into the “What we can affirm,” which is first and foremost that racial, ethnic diversity is a good. We see in scripture it is a good thing, in and of itself. The flip side of that being that racism, racial discrimination are abhorrent. They are bad things. And so again, acknowledging that where we see racial discrimination, that should be stamped out. Now the question is whether affirmative action is the way to do that or not. But one thing we can affirm is that it is trying to address a problem, and that it is trying to achieve something which is a good, which is this inclusion of all the different peoples that God has created and given His image.

And maybe one more thing that we could put in this “affirm” section is the acknowledgement that the natural state of things isn’t neutral. So I think a lot of the critiques of affirmative action are saying that things should instead be based purely on merit, like—you should get into college based on your grades, based on your academic merits. And that’s a great idea. But I think what affirmative action is responding to, what we need to keep in mind, is that that’s not necessarily going to be the reality—that if you strip away affirmative action, we aren’t necessarily left with a purely neutral playing field where people are accepted only based on their merits. People still have biases they bring to the table that affirmative action was attempting to address. And so just because we are not explicitly biased in terms of granting positions to people based on their minority status doesn’t mean there aren’t harder-to-see implicit biases at work that are advantaging certain groups or disadvantaging certain groups. Just because it’s not institutional doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

KELSEY: And that’s where we start pivoting towards some challenge, because some of the maybe artificial ways that this action tried to play itself out, with these quotas, as though you could rectify the situation by having a certain amount of people in certain places, that was going to solve the problem. And I would say that that’s one of the major areas that I would challenge, is in these quotas. They seemed to be more arbitrary, and they were not based on some of the things that we do need to have in mind regarding merit, regarding whether it is a good fit for persons. And so we’re keeping one characteristic of a person in a place of high value to the detriment of the other characteristics, like temperament, like giftedness and talents, like experience, and that which really merits them to be in certain positions, or even in certain schools. I have recently gone through this process with my daughter, who is now a freshman in college. And I can, if I’m honest—I can evaluate that not every school would have been a good fit for her. The DNA, what their aims were, what type of professions that they were even producing. They would not be a good fit for my very smart, very disciplined, strong, lovely young woman of a daughter. And so there needs to be a certain recognition that not everyone is a good fit for every place. And that’s where challenging this quota thing, I think, comes from—at least in my mind.

JONATHAN: And not “not a good fit because” of race or ethnicity. But being able to look honestly at the things that prepare somebody for a certain academic context. Economist Thomas Sowell, he pointed out like, if there’s a student who’s in a minority, and is in like the 75th percentile academically, and they are thrust into a college where nobody in the 75th percentile, regardless of race or ethnicity, would succeed—you know, we’re setting up that student to fail, and not even achieving an equitable outcome in the end because of that. And that goes hand in hand with some people arguing that these affirmative action policies end up, in practice, often aiding those who are in higher socioeconomic realms, rather than the people who most need assistance and help. And so you can look at—you know, a policy might look good on the books, but it might, in practice, actually not be helping in the situations where help is most needed.

KELSEY: So we’re looking at this idea through categories that have to do with failure, success, flourishing, thriving. In education, we talk about the need for support and structure to go alongside of any challenge that you face, in order that you would thrive from facing that challenge. We talked a lot about failure in a couple episodes already with Concurrently, and one of the distinct characteristics of moving through failure towards growth has to do with that support that is needed to iterate, walk through that failure towards just greater growth and accomplishment. You’re able to, with evaluation, move through it. But that is support, and that is structure. And I’ve seen that done really well. I even experienced it in a Trio program at University of South Carolina, where a good friend of mine, Lisa Rosdail hired me and a bunch of people to be a part of the support and the structures necessary to bring first-generation college students into a place where they were able to not fall into a miseducation, or a failure situation, but to truly get the equipment that they needed to not only finish their education, but to thrive. So I’ve seen it done well, where an institution, rather than seeking to enforce it through an admissions policy, is actually creating an entire program to foster good scholarship and academic success, providing support and structure that’s needed to see a person come through their education to the place of really being employable and able to move into a future with strength.

JONATHAN: And now we’re seeing the response, right? We’re starting to get into that place of response. And what you’re describing there is something that is much more holistic than just filling a quota. It’s something that is meeting people where the need is and walking alongside them. And in that response, something I see is that scripture paints a strong connection between sin, chaos, and disorder. God creates order, but sin—it undoes and uncreates and leads to disorder. And when we’re faced with these great sins, like slavery and Jim Crow and segregation, it’s easy to fall into this trap of imagining some kind of turnkey solution that can bring perfect order really quickly. Like we could just press the “undo button,” like—“Okay, slavery is illegal, everything’s fine now,” or “We’ve instituted affirmative action and put a certain—you know, we’ve created a perfect equal class where people of all different races are represented, everything’s fine now.” But there is no undo button, because sin creates a mess. And the real process of healing in that circumstance we know will ultimately be accomplished in Christ’s return. And sometimes it’s easy to dismiss solutions as utopian because they will never be accomplished, because it seems almost like they are futile. But you know, that knowledge shouldn’t lead us to throw in the towel. We’re still called to be good stewards of what we have here and to be making Earth look more like Heaven, even if that work will not be completed on this side of the return of Christ. And you know, that work is a long process. It’s not an easy button, it’s not an undo button, you can’t “control Z” anything. But you can begin this long process of creating and cultivating and connecting, and policies might be part of that. And I think, in some cases, like with the great evil of slavery, policy and legal action had to be part of that, to cut off an injustice. But even those policies must exist in this context and this knowledge that to truly push back on the mess and chaos created by sin, it’s going to be a long process of cultivation. And there’s no easy, simple solution that we can just mandate from the top down. It’s going to involve all sorts of different realms, and it’s going to involve that person-to-person connection too.

KELSEY: Bear with me as I make this connection to scripture with what you’re saying, that it was because of the hardness of man’s hearts that the institution of divorce was established. And that’s a sad thing, that we needed things established that were about seeking justice for those who are in bad situations and getting them freed from maybe a situation that included abuse. And making this connection to the fact that it’s because of the hardness of man’s hearts that we need, at times, these policies that shape us, that mold us, that help with a cultural shift. The Lord ordained that we would have earthly rulers seeking to do with what they have the wisest that they can. We have to live underneath that authority for a time and continue to engage and seek wiser and wiser practices—do that in the church, do that in our schools.

JONATHAN: And there’s another aspect of response that I think of. I know, from hearing the experiences of people who are in racial or ethnic minorities, that, if they are in a certain position of status in job or school, there can be these really painful accusations they face of, “Oh, you’re just there because somebody was filling a quota. You’re just there because of, you know, some sort of affirmative action policy.” And that, I want to acknowledge that that can be a really painful thing for people. And I want to definitely push back against people who would make those accusations at others. You do not know, necessarily, somebody’s situation and the challenges somebody overcame to get where they are, or what they bring to the table in their position. I think that’s something—as members of a majority culture specifically, we need to have our hearts tempered and be tender in these situations. And even if we are saying—yeah, maybe affirmative action isn’t always the best policy for dealing with things—that we are not hurling unfounded or hurtful accusations at people who are not in the majority culture and have attained a place of authority or status in these realms. Does that—hopefully I said that clearly.

KELSEY: I think that sounded great. We’re understanding that it is a responsibility of ours, as we engage in institutions, that we have a real responsibility to engage as citizens of Heaven—those who seek to love neighbor. This is a personal responsibility that we have to take on and often repent over. I have received a wonderful article by the hands of one of our coworkers that discusses the difference between paranoia and metanoia, which is the actual Greek word that is used in that place when Jesus is calling people to repentance. And metanoia has to do with a generous posture, one that seeks to humbly receive that one’s thinking might have been in the wrong and generously assume that the other person’s thinking and story has great value. It’s a much more complex term than I can give it credit for right now. But it is, just as the idea of Shalom is a much more complete word, metanoia too encompasses a much more diverse thought than merely repentance. And it is our work, as believers, to explore that in our posture.

JONATHAN: I think with that in mind, a lot of the divisiveness around this issue can be, maybe not all the way solved, but certainly helped by stopping to listen to the stories of others with grace.

KELSEY: Our story, the Redemptive Narrative gives us lots of reason to listen to story, to hear the touchpoints of other story with the touchpoints of the gospel. And today, I’m going to share a couple passages, and instead of just reading them verbatim, I’m going to talk about some of the promises that are in them. The first one is from the Old Testament, the book of Exodus, chapter 34:6-7: “The Lord passed before him”—him being Moses—and proclaimed of Himself, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands.”

And here I’m going to pause first. This word “thousands” is representative of so much more, an exponential amount more of than thousands. It’s related to this sense that His faithfulness goes to eternity.

“Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

I notice here that the consequences are limited. There are consequences. He says that there will be consequences for sin. We’ve painted some of those in this specific area today. But there’s also a promise in there that those consequences are limited, and that we can see successful pushback against those consequences as we move through the generations, away from those specific areas of brokenness in culture.

JONATHAN: So to apply that directly to what we’re talking about today: We see the consequences of discrimination reverberating through generations. But God’s word would say to us that there will be a limit to that chaos, and that God’s grace is so much more infinite and eternal than all of that.

KELSEY: Now also from the New Testament, and pointing to that eternal solution, that grace that unfolds forever and ever. Revelation 7:9-10 says:

“After this I looked”—and this is John speaking—“and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

Here, I have to say one more thing—that salvation, restoration, ultimate consummation, these are all in the hands of the Father. We have the privilege of being wrapped up in that restorative work, that work of reconciliation, of repair, that time between times where we wait for the ultimate to come. We still get to participate in it. This work—parent, teacher, mentor of kids and teens, you students listening in—this work was given into our hands. And He has equipped us for the work.



Show Notes

We’re breaking out all our tools to tackle a listener question on affirmative action. How do we unravel lasting consequences of cultural injustice? And what does it mean for human flourishing?

For a limited time, you can get 50% off a yearly subscription to any God’s WORLD News publication. Visit to subscribe today.

Check out The Concurrently Companion for this week’s downloadable episode guide including discussion questions and scripture for further study. Sign up for the News Coach Newsletter at

We would love to hear from you. You can send us a message at What current events or cultural issues are you wrestling through with your kids and teens? Let us know. We want to work through it with you.

See more from the News Coach, including episode transcripts.

Further Resources:

Concurrently is produced by God’s WORLD News. We provide current events materials for kids and teens that show how God is working in the world. To learn more about God’s WORLD News and browse sample magazines, visit We’re having our biggest sale yet! Get 50% off an annual subscription to God’s WORLD News through 10/15/2023.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Covenant College.

Looking for an unapologetically Christian College Experience? Pursuing knowledge transformed by faith, Covenant College prepares students for their callings and careers. Covenant is located on top of Lookout Mountain, Georgia, 20 minutes from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Students who visit are eligible to receive a grant of $1,200. More at

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...