The Pain of Reconciliation
by Tracy DeBoer
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
-2 Corinthians 5:18-19
We see the need of reconciliation throughout the globe both internationally and locally. This is no small or painless thing. The world’s narrative shows cultures pitted against one another. I am only for you if you are on my side or in my culture and don’t offend me. Somehow the world’s solution—peaceful coexistence and acceptance—feels shallow and unrealistic, but why? Could the cause and solution be even deeper? In Colossians 1:21, we see that we are not merely indifferent to God, but actively alienated and hostile. Our enmity towards God has us at odds with His world, including other individuals, and ultimately with ourselves. We are enemies in need of reconciliation to God, His creation, and each other.
One story that illustrates enemy reconciliation comes from C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Edmund Pevensie was a boy that you just wanted to put in time out. He was beyond rude to his baby sister as well as defiant and rebellious in other circumstances. When entering into the land of Narnia on his own, through his greedy self-centeredness, he betrayed his siblings to the White Witch for more candy. Sometimes it’s hard to read about his actions without wrinkling your nose in displeasure. Yet, though he is firmly encamped with the enemy against the good King Aslan, he is rescued out of the darkness and into Aslan’s camp, much to his relief. When the White Witch lawfully claims Edmund’s life due to his status as a traitor, Aslan gives his innocent life to be sacrificed in place of guilty Edmund, fulfilling the law and reconciling Edmund. In this allegory, we readers realize that we, in fact, are Edmund. We were enemies of the Kingdom of God but rescued and reconciled through Christ’s death and resurrection.
Thankfully, Christ did not look upon us as just rule breakers and offenders unworthy of reconciliation. He didn’t treat us as the enemies that we were. He looked at you and me as beloved, made in His image, and He died a painful death on our behalf on the cross. He bridged the chasm and turned enemies into beloved children. But, beloved, at what cost?
Consider this as we are ministers of reconciliation here and now, in Dallas, Texas and wherever we go. Do we count the cost, or are we afraid of the potential pain of being entrusted with this ministry? It would be easy to try to practice this reconciliation ministry at a distance, through vague statements among like-minded company, Facebook solidarity, and email forwards. Who wants to enter into the discomfort of difficult conversations or one-on-one relationships, especially with someone we may consider an enemy? It would be more convenient to ignore someone outside of our circle or easier to hold even mild disdain for someone who operates through a different cultural lens.
Yet we are not just reconciled to God through Christ. Period. End of story. We are now His ambassadors tasked with the mission of reconciliation. No one made in the image of God is past the hope of rescue and reconciliation. We are called to take up our cross and to experience the discomfort and even pain of strained relationships. We are called to purposeful, perhaps awkward conversations; faithful listening filled with compassion and empathy; and to the vulnerability of loving the alienated and the enemy with bold and softened hearts. God is using us to bring people to Himself, by His Spirit. We may feel alien in some contexts and crave the comfort of the familiar. However the familiar and safe does not reflect the reality that our present situation is not our home. We can take courage, because of Christ’s reconciling work; we will one day be home with Him and can endure the stormy call to the present. The hymn, “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” reminds us of where we are and the promise of our future.
On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.
I am bound for the Promised Land,
I am bound for the Promised Land;
So through the pain of Christ’s reconciliation and the ministry of reconciliation to which we are called: Though there is pain—it comes with promise.
So for now, by Christ, in Christ we ask and act:
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.