The world needs Christians to step up and fulfill their vocation duty as ministers of reconciliation.
On the heels of the acquittal of George Zimmerman it became evident American culture is dealing with deep divisions surrounding race. Actually, it was evident before the acquittal. The arrest of Zimmerman was another instance shining the light on the racial tension in America. We can pretend race division does not exist, but it is an exercise in breathing underground. I’m a white, middle-class male, and so it would be easy for me to ignore the impact of race in America. After all, I don’t experience it. Which is exactly the point. Thinking my experience is universal to all is an act of silent complicity. It makes it nearly impossible to listen, hear, and validate the experiences of the others. And it removes any possible of standing in solidarity with them.
I long for justice to be done in all cases where an injustice happened. In this case, an injustice has happened. A 17 year-old boy is dead. We can debate the “why’s” and the “how’s” and “right’s,” but that doesn’t change the fact that a boy is dead. And a life is ruined. George Zimmerman’s life will never be the same. Some are feeling like a severe injustice has been done. At the same time, others trust justice has been served. No one won. This makes it extremely difficult to have a dialogue about what has so clearly emerged from this situation: A country still deeply divided on issues of race.
We need Christians to step up and fulfill their vocational duty as ministers of reconciliation.
It is increasingly clear to me that, regardless of your stance on the outcome of the trial, the responsibility of the Christian is to be a minister of reconciliation. In the same way Jesus mediates between us and the Father, so we are to mediate in the world. For the Christian, reconciliation is not just an idea regarding our relationship with God, but it is an idea that rolls down from that relationship to all relationships. In other words, because we have been reconciled to God, we work at reconciling others to God, and to each other.
This is what the world needs.
The world doesn’t need us to take sides. It doesn’t need us to speak loudly. It doesn’t need us to listen to pundits. The world needs us to step into the divide and minister for reconciliation.
Many people think this is impossible. Resignation and cynicism have long been present in race relationships. There is an assumption that we will never be able to really reconcile. That making all people happy is a pipe-dream. Which it might be. But for the Christian, it doesn’t matter if it is a pipe-dream or not. We are called to be ministers of reconciliation. Whether we think it is possible or not. Whether we know how to or not. Whether it works or not. This is what we do.
Because this is what Jesus did. What Jesus does. He brings together people who otherwise wouldn’t be together. Fisherman and tax collectors. Pharisees and prostitutes. Jews and Gentiles. Men and women. People from every tribe and tongue and nation. He brings us together so that, together, we may bow down before God as a beautiful testimony to the diversity of the image of God in humanity.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem we are close that being a reality.
Or that we really even want that.
If we wanted it, I think our churches would look different. I think Christians would more quickly embrace the work of reconciliation where divides exist. That work starts at home. Far too many Christians fail to do the work of reconciliation in their homes. The divorce rate alone testifies to our ineffectiveness here.
Every neighborhood has conflict and needs the person of peace, the follower of Jesus, to enter into the fray and bring peace. Too often we don’t show up.
When conflict breaks out in our churches we fail to do the work in our churches. It is just easier not to. Why would we want to enter into the divide and work to bring sides together? It is much less labor intensive to pack up and move down the street to the other churches. The way we consume churches has lessened our ability to be agents of reconciliation. By neglecting the relationships in our lives that need reconciliation, we have failed to practice and ready ourselves to mediate for the world.
In order for us to fulfill our call, we must be willing to listen. Reconciliation cannot happen without solidarity. And solidarity will not be obtained without listening. And listening won’t take place if we fail to wonder if it is true.
What if it is true that racism is still prevalent?
What if it is true that our country is racially divided?
What if it is true that as a white, middle-class male I am privileged?
What if it is true that ignoring the issue is a form of silent complicity?
What if it is true that Christ reconciled us to God and, having been reconciled, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation?
What if it is true that the world needs Christians to step up and fulfill their vocational duty as ministers of reconciliation?
What if that’s you?