This is the third time I've written this post -- each time feeling like I haven't quite hit the essence of it. I guess that is the nature of un-naming.
v. A word I wish I came up with that describes the process of stripping down a word, removing our preconceived notions so that we can see it in a fresh light.
Like many words in the church vernacular, I think my understanding of reconciliation has been too small. We could point fingers at its over-use, or use without explanation, but maybe at the heart of it I had to rub up against my need for reconciliation before understanding its weight, its depth. It wasn't just my need either, the more time progresses, the darker our world seems and the more I cry out to God to make it right.
Sometimes when trying to unname a word, you have to start with small words, words not so fraught with connotations. Just listening to toddlers is helpful for this -- they strike so directly at the heart of the matter. "Make it right" seemed like a good place to start unnaming reconciliation. I guess that implies an understanding, or at least a hope, that there is a right and that something went very awry.
And something did go very awry. Genesis speaks of a world God created that was good (talk about a word to unname). It was lush and beautiful and people literally walked with God. So quickly we broke trust and separated ourselves from the one truly good thing. I think we miss something in Genesis though, if we don't see the severity of the break that occurred. For so long I understood the fall as humans separation from God, which it is, but the fall drove rifts to the very foundation of the world. As is so often the case, our decision affected not just us, but the whole of creation.
That basically leaves the rest of the scriptures to weave a story about what I believe is God righting the wrong, which brings us full circle to reconciliation. If we go back to our toddler definition of making it right then the whole of scripture is centered on reconciliation. God throughout the Old Testament makes a people for himself, wooing them and blessing them as they adulter against him. God constantly reproves them as a loving father and then brings them back into his arms. At the climax of the story, God sends his son to be for us our way to reconciliation. He made us right -- "He made him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." God exchanged our sin for his righteousness to make us right. Interestingly enough, the story doesn't end there, it finishes in Revelation where God concludes his work of reconciliation by righting the whole world, making all things new.
The strange thing I find in the scriptures, is that not only is God about the work of reconciliation, He actually calls us to the ministry of reconciliation. So that at the core of who we are as a people, I believe we're called to be about the work of reconciling people and places to God. So, when I'm tilling the soil of my garden, pulling weeds, letting the sweat from my brow mix in with the earth, I'm participating it the work of reconciling our world. Now, my work isn't lasting, but it's a taste of the new heaven and the new earth. And that's a taste we can share with other people who desperately need God's life-giving reconciliation. Right after the Apostle Paul talks about our ministry of reconciliation, he makes an important distinction -- that while we're called to the ministry of reconciliation, it is actually God who does the reconciling. We're actually called to plead with people to be reconciled to God.
Here is to participating in the ministry of reconciliation until God makes all things new.
... I guess I left out part of the story because when God finishes his work of reconciliation, C.S. Lewis would say it's actually only just the beginning. More on that to come...
Gardening, Friendship, and Reconciliation
Austin, I enjoyed reading your musings on reconcilation. It was thought provoking as you took us back to "the beginning" and then to God's work of redemption by reconciling us through His Son. God made us to be co-regents wtih Him but only after we've been reconciled. The work or co-regency begins with salvation and continues throughout all eternity. That's kinda mind bending, huh? Love you, Dad.
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