Humble: Embracing our call to reconcilation
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic death, I have heard many calls for racial reconciliation — especially for a couple weeks.
Since that time political rhetoric, conflict, and even violence have nearly drowned out the calls for reconciliation. Still, I know that I am not alone in having a renewed longing for racial reconciliation. I am encouraged by small signs of reconciliation among some people.
I confess that I do not have immediate answers to the present crisis nor to the underlying deeply rooted issues that rise to the surface when such tragedies as Floyd’s death take place. Try as I might, I have found that I am not capable, so far, to fully comprehend the depth of hurt and division that so many feel and experience.
It is uncomfortable and often disconcerting to try to have meaningful and constructive conversations about systemic racism and other social and cultural divisions, even with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Yet, reconciliation is the ministry (service) assigned to us who follow Jesus. Having become “new creation” people in Christ, we’ve been adopted into God’s family. Consider again these familiar words of the apostle Paul:
“So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old. The old has passed away –- look, what is new has come! And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God!’” (2 Cor 5:17-20 NET)
Reconciliation is what God accomplished through the work of Christ (the Messiah). God has reconciled us who have become “new creation” in the Messiah through whom God was reconciling the whole world (Gk. kosmos – the whole created order) to himself.
According to the Scriptures the outcome is already settled through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Messiah even though it is still being worked out in time and space history.
Jesus has done his work. It is now our time to work. We have been given the word of reconciliation to announce to all people and all nations. What is that word? God is “not counting people’s since against them;” therefore, we are commissioned to plead with them, “Be reconciled to God.” What a glorious message is ours to proclaim!
The wonderful poem in Colossians 1:15-20 which extolls God’s work in Jesus the Messiah ends joyful news:
“… God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross — through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (1:19-20 NET)
God is in the reconciling “business” and he graciously includes us, his adopted sons and daughters in the “family business.” We are called to be reconcilers with our lives and not just with our mouths.
As Jesus put it in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Mt 5:9). It is of such importance that in that same sermon Jesus said,
“‘So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift.’” (Matthew 5:23-24 NET)
Again, the Bible instructs us, “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14).
To have the ministry of reconciliation is a great privilege; however, the ministry of reconciliation is costly. God our Father and the Lord Jesus the Messiah have set the pattern which we are to follow if true reconciliation is to be made.
Reconciliation was not a matter of words for God. Reconciliation was not brought about by discussion.
Through disobedience, mankind, including every one of us, has sinned against God. We have all fallen short in our calling to be the image and likeness of our Father, the Creator and King of the universe. We have all earned death — the only state possible for those who have separated themselves from the Source of Life.
And yet God the Son became one of us in order to fulfill that for which we were created. Jesus himself declared, “I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me” (John 5:30c NET) and again, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me” (John 6:38 NET).
Rather than hold our offenses against us, Jesus, the true Servant, took our offenses upon himself and offered his life over to death in our place. Now he offers us forgiveness, not condemnation! Thus, Jesus demonstrated the truth of the proverb, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (Proverbs 10:12 ESV).
All around us today we see that hatred stirs up strife!
Where are the people who will follow Jesus by choosing and demonstrating that “love covers all offenses”?
Where are the people who will demonstrate what our Father is like by suffering injustice against ourselves if need be in order to peacemakers and reconcilers?
If we who profess to be God’s people were to confess and repent of our own sins against God and of the offenses we have committed against others, if we were to lay down our demands against those who have done us wrong, if we were to refuse to take up the offenses committed against us, if we were to refuse to count against them the “sins” of people who do us evil, and if we forgive as we want our Father and King to forgive us, … what message will our lives and our words proclaim in this dark and evil time?
This is the very assignment which we have been given. Thus, Paul, at the end of that great poem which calls us to choose the servant attitude and way of Jesus, exhorts us,
“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, as you offer them the message of life”(Philippians 2:14-16a GNT).
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. (prayer attributed to Francis of Assisi).
Steve Humble has been an elder at Winchester Covenant Church since its beginning in 1991. He can be reached at 859-771-7138 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.