I think even outsiders of the faith are aware that one of the major themes of Christianity is the idea of Reconciliation. While we may not always know what this means, we know that it was something that Jesus did on the cross and it’s something we’re called to do. Doesn’t it also have something to do with forgiveness? Isn’t there something about this happening in the End Times?
I think it’s a shame that we in the Western Church hold such a narrow and incomplete understanding of reconciliation. The Scriptures are never so dull about the topic. In fact, one could argue that the entire Biblical story line is one of Reconciliation – between God and Man, yes, but also between Creation and Creator, Man and Man, and between Man and Creation. The word describes the Heart of the Gospel, the mission of the Incarnate Christ, and the ongoing ministry of the Church (2 Corinthians 5:18), yet I feel that reconciliation is absent from many pulpits and from the hearts of many well-meaning followers of Christ. Why?
The word ‘reconcile’ simply means something like “to restore peaceful relations or friendship,” or more Biblically “to restore familiarity (the act of being familial – like a family).” If we understand Christ’s death and (importantly) his resurrection to be primarily a work of reconciliation, then apparently Christ was returning humanity to a pre-existing relationship with God and with Creation. After all, how can you restore a relationship that never existed in the first place?
Fundamentally, Christ is restoring humankind to the intended relationship with God, Creation, and the Rest of Mankind: The relationship between Adam and God at Eden. Christ, as the New Adam (Romans 5), became the firstborn of a new kind of human – a restored race – that is paradoxically born from death (1 Corinthians 1:18). This is a radical, earth-shaking reconciliation between God and Man that should motivate us to re-create the world around us to look more like Eden. When Christ calls Christians to take up the cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24), it is a call to emulate this re-creative, reconciliatory work, even to the end of dying on our cross.
How are you doing that in your life? In what ways are you trying to reconcile relationships, work, and human creativity? Jesus and the Apostles are worth emulating as an example – they frequently ministered across social boundaries and sought to bring value to people who, in the Roman world, had none. The woman at the well (John 4), the woman with the bleeding illness (Matthew 9:20-22), and the lepers (Matthew 8:1-4) were all social outcasts ignored by the government and religious establishments of the time. The tax collectors (Matthew 9:9-11) would have been seen as anti-patriotic Jews who chose Roman citizenship over loyalty to their countrymen.
In spite of these things, we see the Ministry of reconciliation described by Paul in this way:
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (NIV, Emphasis Mine)
In the midst of the Pandemic, Race Protests, and Mask Culture War, are you continuing to view people from a worldly point of view? It would be easy to demonize the “cultural others” in this situation and see them from a “worldly point of view.” It would be easy to dismiss the fears and complaints of oppressed African Americans, and label them as enemies. It would be easy to dismiss the fears of the immune-compromised in our communities and label them as faithless. But I believe this message of reconciliation is a warning – if we strive harder to separate ourselves from these outsiders than we do to minister compassionately to them, we are failing our job as ambassadors.
The Gospel, the story told in the pages of Scripture, is a narrative of radical, supernatural reconciliation between things that should not otherwise be reconciled. The Kingdom of God is comprised of people from all over the spectra of race, ethnicity, age, denomination, and political beliefs with each individual member contributing their uniqueness to the strange diversity of God’s Kingdom. We cannot invalidate people or undervalue the radical power of Christ’s reconciliation in our own lives.
So, let us value our reconciliation with God, yes, but let us also take this reconciliation to our workplaces, social media pages, and communities. Let’s invest effort in forming radical, gospel-centered relationships with people we would otherwise never speak to. Let’s make our worlds a little more like Eden, and a little more like the diversity of the Kingdom.
I captured this post’s photo on a walk through the Turnbull Wildlife Refuge earlier this summer and was surprised at how photogenic this bird was for me. I was glad to have my telephoto lens on hand, but it was only about 30 feet away in a nearby tree. Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of it in-flight, when the red feathers you see in this picture fold out a bit more visibly.
I’m surprised to report that I may be becoming a bit of an aviphile since my wife put a bird feeder in our backyard. Might have to take the telephoto out more often.
For those still reading, Thank You! I make this blog on an infrequent basis and continually promise that I will post more often. Now, however, I have officially completed my undergrad! My official degree conferral date was July 31, but I don’t yet have the paper. Rest assured, I’ll brag about it on all relevant platforms when it arrives.
Anyway, point being, I hope to continue reading and writing over the coming months to keep my academic skills sharp. So, you may occasionally see posts like this one, which was a reflection on the opening chapter of Jefferson Bethke’s It’s Not What You Think, a so far tremendous book about our Western misconceptions about the Gospel, Bible, Jesus, and the Faith. I’d recommend picking it up for yourself, as it’s approachable and challenging and really forces you to think about the way you understand your faith.
Hope you’re all doing well! Check out my new merch if you haven’t already, I’m a fan of the redesigned logo. Also, be sure to follow on all social media places for the shorter, more personal updates as they happen.
Grace and Peace, y’all.