(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.
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