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