Michelle T. Sanchez is the senior discipleship and evangelism leader of the Evangelical Covenant Church, a vibrant multiethnic denomination of more than 875 congregations. Michelle completed seminary degrees at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and spiritual direction training at Boston College. She is a conference speaker and a columnist with Outreach magazine. Michelle has enjoyed engaging with colorful cultures in over thirty countries and territories around the world.
In this interview, Michelle shares some of her thoughts regarding her latest book, God’s Beloved Community.
FF: What inspired you to write a children’s book using a message from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the starting point?
Although there are many children’s books these days about racial justice, there are not as many robust faith-based children’s books on this topic. But we know that God cares about racial justice and reconciliation, and he deeply desires for us to join him in that work! Today many young people are concerned for justice, and that is good. Too often, though, they get swept up into the pursuit of justice without Jesus. That’s why I wrote God’s Beloved Community. I want to teach children from a very young age that the best way to do justice is together with Jesus—and Martin Luther King Jr. is one of our best models for this. It was King who popularized the biblically-grounded concept of “beloved community,” and I want to share more about that vision with the world.
FF: Why is it important to introduce Dr. King’s vision from the perspective of both a social justice advocate and faith leader?
Many children primarily learn about Dr. King in secular contexts and on Martin Luther King Day, a national secular holiday. So kids learn about who King was, but their learning is incomplete. As a result, our children are more prone to remember King as a civil rights leader than a faith leader. But he was certainly both! That’s why, throughout the story of God’s Beloved Community, I refer to King as “Pastor King.” King was a pastor first. I believe that King’s faith in Christ was his primary inspiration to courageously advocate for justice. As King explains in Strength to Love, it is God’s supernatural love that empowers us to share that same love with the world. We are not meant to do justice in our own strength; rather, we are meant to do justice from the deep overflow of God’s lavish love for us.
FF: How could parents use your book to have conversations about moving from being “color-blind” to “color-courageous”?
God’s Beloved Community provides a wonderful opportunity to teach our children a godly approach to difference—in this case, racial difference. Many people try to minimize our differences through color-blindness. In a well-intentioned effort to avoid racism, color-blind advocates focus on what we have in common, saying “I don’t see color.” Don’t get me wrong; color-blindness is not all bad. But new research does demonstrate that it is ineffective in fostering equality. Why? Because those who can’t see race often can’t see racism. Color-blind people have trouble discerning the subtle but destructive impacts that racism has in our everyday lives. This is why we need a different approach—we need to move from color-blind to color-courageous. Those who are color-courageous choose to see color for the sake of courageously pursuing true racial equality. God’s Beloved Community is designed to help you disciple your kids in a color-courageous way! And don’t miss your opportunity to download a free children’s activity kit at godsbelovedcommunity.com.
FF: What will children, and maybe parents too, learn about not only Dr. King’s dream but God’s bigger story for us all?
Everyone knows that Dr. King had a dream, but I think that fewer people really understand what the heart of Dr. King’s dream really was–beloved community. God’s Beloved Community starts with a little girl at school on a snowy January day, right around Martin Luther King Day, learning about Dr. King’s dream for racial equality. But then the context switches to the little girl attending church on a Sunday, where she girl learns that Dr. King’s dream was so much bigger–in fact, it was truly a God-sized dream! King’s dream was rooted in God’s original dream for beloved community—a diverse community where everyone loves one another with God’s love. God created the world so that we might all experience beloved community. This book teaches the biblical story of how God’s dream for beloved community was broken and then celebrates how Jesus restores God’s beloved community through his life and death on the cross.
FF: What do you hope children who read God’s Beloved Community will take away?
I want children to read this book and come away utterly enchanted by the love of God! I want them to know that God is love; that every unique person is deeply loved by God; and that God invites every child and family to partner with him to build God’s beloved community.
God’s Beloved Community
A Picture Book
Michelle T. Sanchez
Release Date: November 1, 2022
God created a world filled with vibrant variety—and called it good! From flamingos and crows to shooting stars and rainbows—to all our different shades of hair, eyes, and skin—God declared it all very good. Now God calls us to resist racism and proclaim with him how precious all people really are.
With lively rhyming text, this book takes young readers on a biblical and historical journey to discover more about beloved community. Drawing on the biblical vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it explores how we can create communities filled with God’s love as we delight in our differences, stand up to bullying and unfair rules, and declare with our lives and our love that everyone matters to God.
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