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In 2018, consider being a bridge-builder

In 2018, consider being a bridge-builder

We have arrived upon January 2018! Yes, you survived (and perhaps even thrived in) 2017. The beginning of a new year is oftentimes pregnant with hope and possibility. We believe we can make positive changes in our lives: lose ten pounds, pray more, pay down debt, serve in a local charity, etc.

However, given our current national political environment, marked by division and discord, I want to strongly urge followers of Jesus to consider making a particular commitment in 2018. Let’s make a new or renewed effort to be “peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9). While we cannot control what takes place in Washington, D.C., we can control the way we carry ourselves in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces and sporting venues. Because Christians are children of God, we can let go of bitterness, cynicism and sarcasm and focus on being people who are agents of peace, healing and reconciliation.

Why am I making this case?

Because I am convinced it reflects God’s heart and therefore His will for our world. Colossians 1:19-20 (NIV) says “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Furthermore, 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (NIV) makes this bold assertion: “…if anyone is in Christ, he [or she] is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 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 men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”

Simply put: God cares deeply about reconciliation.

How do we define it? According to scholar Leon Morris the word, in its original usage, means “to change (make other) or to exchange (provide an other)… ‘to effect a thorough change.’”

Bottom line, it is noun and verb, content and action. First, the Christian gospel is ‘reconciliation.’ The cross itself demonstrates both the vertical and horizontal planes of reconciliation. Through faith in Jesus Christ, humanity can be reconciled to the triune God, and humans, to one other. Second, ‘reconciling’ is an action: an intentional, perpetual and vigorous movement connecting people across barriers. To reconcile is to build bridges across difference, and even alienation and hostility.

According to Colossians 1, God is reconciling all things to himself by making peace through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. God’s desire to heal what is hurting and repair what is broken, not just with individuals but also with all of creation. A key way God does this is through his people, known as Christians. 2 Cor. 5 teaches us reconciliation is a “message,” a “ministry,” and even an identity (“Christ’s ambassadors”). Followers of Jesus are to share the message of reconciliation, embody it through their lives (an outward-facing ministry), and embrace their ongoing role as Heaven’s ambassadors on earth.

Make no mistake: this message, ministry and identity were (in the Apostle Paul’s day) and are today, radical and counter-cultural. Eminent theologian N.T. Wright contends, “The world has never before seen a ministry of reconciliation; it has never before heard a message of reconciliation. No wonder the Corinthians found Paul’s work hard to fathom. It didn’t fit any preconceived ideas they may have had. He was behaving like someone… who lived in a whole new world.” Christians are appointed by God to live in a new way because they represent the God who has done a new thing in Jesus Christ. However, we act with humility, knowing perfection is unattainable since we still wrestle with sin and brokenness.

Here’s the takeaway. Knowing God’s passion for reconciliation, and our calling as reconcilers, whom is God asking you to make peace with: an estranged neighbor, coworker, or relative? A friend who’s hurting and withdrawn? Go and seek to build a bridge across that divide. Ask for forgiveness. Tell that person you want to have a better (as opposed to a bitter) relationship. Or perhaps God is asking you to serve as an intermediary who initiates a healing conversation between estranged parties you are connected to. Doing this, undoubtedly, will not solve all the world’s problems. But it will stimulate reconciliation, which in turn, will bring more harmony to our families, workplaces and communities. I am convinced reconciling will create a reservoir of goodwill that will grow and overflow, creating an ever-widening impact.

 

 

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Pastor Paul Hoffman