Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (NASB)
Reconciliation, an interesting word. How do we define reconciliation? Just think about that word for a minute. We might think of a spouse reconciling with their mate after a separation. Maybe there is a wayward child who needs reconciliation with their parents. Maybe we need to be reconciled with our family, church, or friends. What does this mean?
If we peruse the English dictionary we find some insight into the word reconcile. It is a transitive verb (for all you grammarians) with several meanings including: (1) To reestablish a close relationship, as in marriage: The estranged couple reconciled after a year. (2) To settle or resolve an issue. (3) To bring (oneself) to accept: He finally reconciled himself to the change in management (4) To make compatible or consistent: reconcile my way of thinking with yours.
Reconcile finds part of its root in the word conciliate. This word helps us understand more of the embodied concepts of this intriguing word reconcile, i.e. re-conciliate. Conciliate can mean: (1) To overcome the distrust or animosity of; appease. (2) To regain or try to regain (friendship or goodwill) by pleasant behavior. (3) To make or attempt to make compatible; reconcile.
Within the etymological confines of this word it becomes evident a schism, a division, between one person and another, must exist in the physical, spiritual, ideological or emotional aspect of their relationship. A cursory look at the orthodox teachings of Scripture reveals the pervasive presence of a schism between man and God on all these levels. We are separated from God because of inherited sin.
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22 NASB)
However, salvation, a healing of the division, is found in the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ to provide proper atonement for our transgressions. We become fellow-heirs of God’s kingdom, brothers and sisters in the eternal family of our Creator.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 NASB)
We’re missionaries so this salient point should be a clear foundation on which we proclaim the message of the Gospel. Mankind gives birth to sinners, separated from God and in need of reconciliation. When we think of reconciliation, within the bounds of our faith, we easily recall the Gospel message, the rescuing of sinners from eternal damnation. Still, there is another aspect of reconciliation we need to consider.
This is reconciliation which occurs after salvation. A daily opportunity, sometimes hourly, arises for us to practice the ministry of reconciliation. While the first step is removing the rift between our sinful soul and God’s righteousness the next is to maintain an un-gullied landscape between ourselves and the rest of mankind. Paul expressed it simply by saying, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:18 NASB)
Jesus dealt with this interpersonal relationship aspect of our Christian walk in the sermon on the mount. He shocked the primarily Jewish audience by indicating something more important than a sacrificial offering was at stake. Jesus said, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matthew 5:23-24 NASB) I always found this short story interesting. Instead of thinking about the offenses you have against others, it is important to consider what offenses others have against you. We don’t often reflect with such altruistic intentions.
It is such attention to the needs of others, the clear understanding that relationships between ourselves and others must be maintained, that brings to the forefront the need to practice the ministry of reconciliation on a day to day, person by person basis. Let’s consider how we fare in this aspect of our Christian walk and the ministry where we serve. Let me say, I’m not an expert. As a matter of fact I’m sharing this subject as part of my own erudition.
We are all busy. At least we all appear to be very busy. Many projects, many changes, people coming, people going, life at home, life at church, life in the neighborhood, all add up to a busy life. Sometimes this can press us to the point of treading on another’s actions, emotions, or ideas in our pursuit of the final completed check mark on the to do list. Getting things done is part of the ministry. Being people, which we are, we make mistakes and at times show a great lack of tact and care towards one another.
It could be we haven’t a worry working with one another but the impact of our schedule, the self created pressure of our work, surfaces in our interactions at home, church or in the community. Where the altercation, intended or accidental occurs is not the issue. The issue is what do we do after the conflict or simple clashing of personalities, plans, concepts, cultures or perceptions? Do we seek to reconcile, to get to terms with one another, to come to an mutually acceptable agreement? Or, do we sweep it under the carpet and just hope it goes away quietly?
A multitude of tomes exist extolling the virtues of conflict resolution along with a plethora of steps to take, guidelines to apply and innumerable “how-tos.” The goal of this discussion is not the technique but the need. It is also important to differentiate between apology and reconciliation. An apology may sooth immediate feelings over a issue but won’t necessarily change our actions in the future. Reconciliation goes to the extreme of attempting to find a point of agreement for both the immediate and the future.
It isn’t a problem, especially working in a mission, to see the need to administer the word of reconciliation to the world, to the lost sinners we envision searching for a bridge across the chasm that separates them from God. It often becomes lost when our vision draws closer to hearth and home. Our ministry is about people. Proclaiming the message of salvation to people. Helping people find God. Helping people walk faithfully with God in righteousness.
We must remember, we are people. We work with people. If we cannot apply the same concern, grace, functional application of reconciliation close at hand we cannot proclaim the message far and wide. Our personal interactions, at the office, in the community, at church and home belie our true understanding and significance applied to the need for reconciliation. Its the same idea from age to age. We might say one thing but if our actions don’t support what we say, we might as well not say anything.
I’m not calling for everyone to look around and say, “He did such -n such to me. He should reconcile with me,” or “I’m ready for so -n so to come and then we can reconcile the matter.” Instead I’m asking myself, and you, to look inside and think of our relationships. Think of people in church. Think of family at home. Think of colleagues. Do we sense, do we know that someone has something against us.
Before we come to God’s altar to sacrifice our praise, our life, our finances, our skills, whatever you want to put in the equation, we need to seek out that person and get things cleared up. We need to do our part to administer, not just preach, the act of reconciliation. We must also be willing for others to approach us and seriously work through matters to insure we are reconciled at all levels of relationship.
Some may accept our advances, some may not. But we need to know we have done what we can to insure our horizontal relationships with people are in as good a shape as our vertical relationship with God. Think about it.