Reconciliation is the heart of the gospel. People have tried to have me think it’s something different. They’ve tried to tell me it’s about answers to 16th Century theo/political questions. They’ve tried to tell me it’s about saving the American family. They’ve tried to tell me it’s about 5 acts of worship. They’ve tried to tell me it’s about sin. They’ve left me unconvinced!
It’s about reconciliation. God reconciles us to Himself so that we can be reconciled to one another. It’s full-circle reconciliation!
Why do I believe this? Because the central issue at play in the New Testament is reconciliation; the bringing together of Jew and Gentile. This is in the backdrop of all of Paul’s letter and the overarching context of why he writes. It was Paul’s great work.
The apostle writes in Ephesians, for example, about why Jesus came to earth. He writes in 2:14, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”
Later, Paul takes a different approach, writing in chapter 4, he states, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
The point is simple: Jesus, who is other, came to earth to reconcile people, who are not like him due to their lack of holiness, to his self. It was, is, and has always been about reconciliation, what Paul calls the “ministry of reconciliation” in 2 Corinthians. Paul believes that God reconciles humankind to Himself in order that humankind be reconciled to one another. What else could happen when we begin to “regard no one from a human point of view (2 Cor. 5:16)”
Now, why is this important?
Because most contemporary Western churches have lost this, and thereby, lost Jesus. In it’s place, we have turned Jesus into a really good family counselor. It’s my job, in part, to pay attention to what’s happening in the church universal. As I do this, I’ve become appalled at the domestication of Jesus. Jesus is good for your personal finances, your marriage, your kids, Jesus is even good to give you a nice philanthropic high from spending as week in Haiti or Africa or some other place that really hot. Yet, strikingly, the business of reconciliation is largely absent in the preaching and teaching calendars in our churches.
- Where are the Advent sermons reminding the church that the first visitors to Jesus were poor shepherds and wise men who weren’t followers of YHWH and who were foreigners, yet they were welcomed by Joseph and Mary?
- Where are the Christmas sermons highlighting the fact that Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus were undocumented non-workers as they fled to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath?
- Where’s the preaching series about the Exodus telling the church that non-Jews left Egypt under Moses’ leadership and God instructed the Israelites to treat them humanly and as one of their own?
- Have we forgotten that Peter instructs believers that WE should live as “aliens and strangers” to the world?
- And where are the message reminded us that Jesus saw Himself as a “stranger” in Matthew 25 and those who did not let him in are the ones cast away.
These are all reconciling texts. And it’s just a start.
So, here’s my question: What is your community of faith doing to reconcile people to one another? Tell us about it.