Tag Archives: scripture

Hands

Coming Together

(A six minute read – part of a year-long series on the Ministry of Reconciliation)

Reconciliation (noun) /ˌrek.ənˌsɪl.iˈeɪ.ʃən/: The process of making two opposite beliefs, ideas or situations agree.

It’s easy to pass this word off as only relevant for person-to-person conflict. Something done after a war, or a genocide, or when a business partnership goes bad. Perhaps it’s a January response to that ugly political discussion at the holiday dinner table.

Reconciliation is much more

Reconciliation is much, much bigger than that. It’s about charting new courses for ourselves. It’s about listening to one another. It’s about being willing to reserve judgment. It’s about wanting to be nice. It’s about healing. Ultimately, its about forgiveness. More on that in a moment.

The Bible says that, as a Christian, I’ve been given the ‘ministry of reconciliation.’ What is that? It means my purpose here is to bring love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control into all I do. Those are the tools in my tool-kit for building reconciliation among estranged parties.

The Biblical word for reconciliation in the Greek is katallagē (καταλλαγή), which means restoration to favor.

It comes from the root word katallassō (καταλλάσσω), which means to change mutually.

See the connection? Mutual change is an adjustment you and I make through compromise. It comes through listening and reserving judgment until we can both change. Only then, can we again favor one another.

What’s that about forgiveness?

If I’m in dispute with you I can’t reconcile with you until I forgive you. Forgive you for being a jerk. For having wrong ideas. For disagreeing with me. For whatever is on my list that gives me the self-righteous excuse to push you away, to stop listening, to stop caring about you.

Only through forgiveness can I become willing to return (repent) to a state of right relationship with you. Only then can I reconcile. Assuming you too are willing, of course. You just might have your own list and be enjoying the fruits of your own anger.

If that’s the case: Houston, we have a problem.

Easily dealt with

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution. Love. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s one of the tools in that tool-kit, remember?

Last week, I wrote about my friend Brian, who met love in the midst of a group of young people who talked him out of suicide. God’s love, expressed through them, radically changed his life.

That love reconciled Brian to God, from whom he’d been estranged his entire life. It also reconciled him to other people, whom he’d been blaming for his troubles. Finally, it reconciled him to himself.

He was living one way, met love, and now lives another.

I’m not saying that love without God in it can’t lead to some level of reconciliation. It can. But I don’t believe it transforms us, and it’s much harder for it to last. Reconciliation is God language. We can borrow it, but if He’s not in it, it’s not as powerful as when He is. His involvement gives it a capital letter, as it were.

Reconciliation happens everywhere

God is always all-in. He does nothing by half measures. If God is love, then He is always love, and is love all the time. He is not arbitrary. Sure, it’s easy to ask amid a pandemic, ‘Oh yeah? So where’s God in this?’

That’s a great question. In fact, that’s the right question. Because God always comes into evil situations – whether created by the devil directly, or by my own sin. When I look for Him – I can find a path to reconciliation.

God showed up in our neighborhood as Jesus Christ, to reconcile the world to Himself, no longer counting our sins against us – if we believe in Him.1 It’s pretty simple, really.

So He continues: reconciling all of creation to Himself. It’s happening all the time everywhere, whether we can see it or not.

Of course, we can work against it. If I come up and hit you in the nose, that’s not what you’d call a reconciling gesture. However, even in that stupid act and its aftermath, there is an opportunity for reconciliation to begin.

Physically, it’s obvious: the blood clots and then soon stops flowing; in a short time the pain and swelling recede; damaged tissue repairs itself; not too long after, it’s as though nothing happened.

On a heart level it’s a different matter. If I’m not willing to apologize profusely (and probably, have a pretty good excuse that you’ll accept!) you won’t begin to think about forgiving me. Thus, I stop that omnipresent reconciliation in its tracks. Or, if you think I’m offering a bogus excuse, or are insincere, you may also call a halt to the healing.

See? Even when it doesn’t happen, it’s still available. The potential remains. We just have to grab it, and it becomes real.

Looking ahead

Hang on to this idea that reconciliation is happening all the time, everywhere. Because we’ll explore that in the coming weeks. And I think you’ll be surprised to find out that it shows up in some seemingly unlikely places.

1. 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 (NLT) ‘For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.’

Definition courtesy of Cambridge Dictionary

Read the entire series

Reverse Direction

A Special Bulletin

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program for a special bulletin.
You have no need to fear.

Yes, there’s a pestilence loose in the world right now.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in your health.

The stock markets are crashing and the economy seems to be dissolving.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in money.

Someone you love dearly may be ill, or may even have died.
I am with you in your grief, but you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in people.

You doubt the government knows what it is doing.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in government.

The media keeps harping on how bad it all is.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in the media.

The medical system may seem to be failing you.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in medicine.

Your church gives no answers about why this is happening.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in your church leaders.

It’s time to put your faith in the place where there’s never a doubt or failure.
Put your faith in God,
Jesus Christ says you have no need to fear.

“Don’t be afraid,” He said. “Take courage. I am here!” *
Yes, even in your self-isolation.

*Matthew 14:27 (NLT)

This piece originally posted 19 March, 2020. To read a true story about how faith in God overcame fear of death and disease, read The Lie Called Cancer, now available through Amazon.

[Photo: Frisky 007 via Wikimedia Commons]

Silver Falls, Coos County Oregon

Never The Same River

(A three minute read)

Sometimes when I seek God, I don’t get what I expect. Sometimes the Holy Spirit, who coaches me until I am ready to compete. Sometimes the Father, who overpowers me with His love and dominion. Sometimes Jesus appears, to teach – you guessed it – a word.

Sometimes when I seek God, He doesn’t come at all, in any of His persona. He leaves me alone. But this isn’t a lottery. I get what I need, and He knows what I need before I need it.

To use the cliché, His shaping and moulding makes me a vessel that can receive more of Him over time. Just as the potter’s lump of clay initially holds nothing, the artist’s hands slowly, patiently, draw it into the shape of a primitive cup.

Then, with more revolutions and more, the cup changes in size. It’s walls narrow and it grows taller. There’s no more material now than in the original lump, but it is given an inside and an outside. It has boundaries.

God shapes these boundaries in us, and as our insides grow larger, we can contain more of Him. In eternity, I’m a vessel that can receive all of Him. Here in the world, I have time and space limitations, but He has these grow, steadily, patiently.

In eternity, I’m a learner with the patience and obedience to sit at His feet. I learn. I worship. I grow. I change shape. I am filled. In the world, I’m a learner who can be impatient and disobedient, not necessarily from wilfulness, but from the very loud and real distractions presented by this life.

And so I go in circles on the potter’s wheel. No, it’s a carousel, and I reach for the brass ring that is Christ.

It’s His music playing as I go round and round. It’s His pony I am riding, and even though I move in a circle, I never quite come back to the same place. Like the water that is ‘never the same river flowing under the bridge’ the stream of my life is constantly moving, changing and growing.

From my belly will flow rivers of this living water. Christ promised it. I’m just a rock face. It’s the Lord Himself that tumbles out of me to water the plains below.