Easy to Say, Difficult to Do

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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. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

After the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, the leaders of the country put together the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In this court-like setting, people who suffered under apartheid were able to give testimony, and those who perpetrated injustice were able to explain themselves and seek amnesty. Dramatic stories came out of the proceedings, but the result was mixed and controversial, with some groups feeling as though justice was undermined.

Reconciliation is easy to talk about, hard to do.

Many theologians have thought that reconciliation may be as important a word as any other in the biblical vocabulary of salvation. It is a word from the world of human relationships. It is that wonderful thing that can happen when people at enmity with each other steer a course toward each other to confess wrongdoing, to repair a rift, to make up, to set aside differences, to cease hostilities, to reconcile.

Most people don’t really believe they are at enmity with God. They think God is quite favorably disposed toward them. After all, why wouldn’t he be? Aren’t we quite lovable the way we are?

No, we are not.

Yet God, in his love, sees us for who we can be, as well as who we are now. Christ, who had no sin, stood in the place of the sinner so that the sinner could stand before God—enmity gone, opposition put aside, friends again.

And so we bear a message of reconciliation and we have a ministry of reconciliation. When people in the world think of Christians, they ought to think: Oh yes, those are the people who are passionate about peace and reconciliation. They live in it and they live for it.

We must make sure we don’t turn reconciliation into a cliché. To be glib about it or sanctimonious. Reconciliation can happen, but it costs us our pride.

Followers of Jesus have a real chance at living the message of reconciliation. Why? Because we believe we can take the risk to forgive, without undermining the final justice of God.

Mel Lawrenz

PONDER: Who do you know who needs “the message of reconciliation,” and how can you explain this good news with humility?

* * *

 

Grace in Baghdad

Ghassan Thomas leads one of the few public churches that emerged [in Baghdad] after Saddam Hussein was toppled. His congregation erected a sign on their building that said “Jesus Is the Light of the World,” but the church was raided by bandits who left behind a threat on a piece of cardboard. It read: “Jesus is not the light of the world, Allah is, and you have been warned.” The note was signed “The Islamic Shiite Party.”

In response, Pastor Ghassan loaded a van with children’s gifts and medical supplies—which were in critically short supply following the American invasion—and drove to the headquarters of the Islamic Shiite Party. After presenting the gifts and supplies to the sheikh, Ghassan told the leader, “Christians have love for you, because our God is a God of love.” He then asked permission to read from his Bible. Ghassan turned to Jesus’ words in John 8, “I am the light of the world.” He then showed the cardboard note to the sheikh. The Muslim leader, astounded by Pastor Thomas’s actions, apologized.

“This will not happen again,” [the sheikh] vowed. “You are my brother. If anyone comes to kill you, it will be my neck first.” The sheikh later attended Pastor Thomas’s ordination service at the church.

Excerpt from Skye Jethani, The Divine Commodity (Zondervan, 2009), pp. 61-62

Comments welcome below.

Past days’ readings HERE.

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7 thoughts on “Easy to Say, Difficult to Do”

  1. Very interesting Mel ! An amazing story from Iraq too. I’ve been saying for years (and I’ve been on this planet for many) that we cannot have peace without giving something and giving up something. All sides need to accept that. To break the vicious circle of aggression and revenge, those involved need to admit mistakes and accept some loss in order to make an overall gain. The results can be dramatic.

    Again, as supposedly civilised countries, we keep ignoring the lessons of history and great people who have been warning us of the consequences of war , interfering with other countries and cultures for thousands of years. We are fulfilling Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity : “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
    Einstein also said : “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding” and
    “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

    Some more borrowed wisdom regarding reconciliation :
    – “The pattern of the prodigal is: rebellion, ruin, repentance, reconciliation, restoration.” [Edwin Louis Cole]
    – “In the aftermath of any war or genocide, healing and reconciliation are ultimate aspirations” [Janine di Giovanni]
    – “True security is based on people’s welfare – on a thriving economy, on strong public health and education programmes, and on fundamental respect for our common humanity. Development, peace, disarmament, reconciliation and justice are not separate from security; they help to underpin it” [Ban Ki-moon]

  2. Lord God, I need a tender heart of mercy and forgiveness, help me to absorb the pain of this conflict and set my passion on restoration and peace… Father, I want my life to reap a harvest of righteousness, through a heart of mercy, I do not want to forget the call of reconciliation, help me to persevere and pray for those who have wronged me, I want to “pray until I have actually prayed”, my heart is yours Father… Lord Jesus, it is hard to minister and empty myself, because when I’m hurt I become preoccupied with defending my reputation, feelings or ego, then I hurt others so I’m not hurt anymore, and many times I don’t restrict the hurting to the person that hurt me… I am so sorry Lord that this is part of my behavior, I want to be better… Holy Spirit, you are my guide and I am sorry if I wavered in obeying your council, tell me where I have contributed to the problem and teach me the guidelines for restoration, I recommit myself to following your guidance step by step without hesitation or reservation…

  3. Milwaukee needs more stories like this right now. How can we be a part of that? I assume that most Elmbrookers at suburbanites and would be seen as outsiders. Can we partner with inner city churches and ministries to help with reconciliation in the inner city and beyond?

  4. Amazing what can happen when one side breaks down a barrier. We can all learn a valuable lesson here from both Pastor Ghassan and the Sheikh.

    I have often said that we need to take the first step. I need to take that step.

    My priest once told me a story of how be was pumping gas one day when someone started yelling at him for cutting him off. Instead of yelling back, he said “You must have had a bad day.” The man immediately apologized and started crying, and even began attending services at our church.

    God is Love!

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