By Sylvia Broome, Central Atlanta Community Facilitator
(adapted from a talk Sylvia did at the Reimagining Homelessness Conference)
God is reconciling the world unto himself. He is drawing us back into a right relationship with Him through Christ’s death and resurrection. For many Christians this is where it stops, a sole focus upon our personal reconciliation to God.
But in 2 Corinthians Paul says, “Through Christ, God has given US the ministry of reconciliation!” We are ambassadors of reconciliation. This means that when we speak reconciliation, we speak as God speaks.
God is making his appeal through US – on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God and to each other. Jesus died for this!
Reconciliation is the restoration of right relationship with God, and with one another. When we seek to live out reconciliation the walls that divide us are broken down and mutuality and interdependence are reformed. Lives flourish and God’s presence is acknowledged and felt.
So, if God is the one that reconciles, we must first and foremost be in right relationship with him before we seek to be reconciled with others. This is what John is trying to convey in I John 4; “If someone says that they love God but hates their brother, they are a liar and the truth is not in them”. We are all called to live into community with God and others.
All of us have a deep longing for love that God created us with, whether we acknowledge it or not. This longing to love comes from God as John also goes onto say in I John 4; “We love because we first loved us.” This means that God’s love calls us and demands that we love others because it is the way he has wired us.
God shows us to how to love in the ten commandments from scripture and Jesus summarizes the law by reducing it to two; “Love the lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.” These two commandments are inseparable, in many ways they are the same.
But the question becomes what gets in the way of loving one another? There are many things, but the one I want to focus on is; is it because we see the other’s weakness while we applaud our own holiness? Are we rejoicing in our relationship with God while pointing out one another’s sins? When we work in ministry with those on the margins, we must be careful not to relate in a “we vs they” relationship. It’s so easy to slip into thinking that “we” have it all together and that “they” don’t.
So how do we seek to live this out with those on the margins when it seems as if “social justice” is the topic these days. But justice is not the goal for the church, the goal if reconciliation. Justice if the outgrowth of reconciliation.
Justice can happen without reconciliation, but reconciliation necessarily results in justice.
Jesus calls us to the table of reconciliation; where Jesus reconciles us to himself – and we reconcile with each other. This is a very serious command when we apply it to the idea of who we are eating with? We have to understand the seriousness of the command that it is a sin when you are not in right relationship with our brother or sister. We cannot go before the Lord until you have peace with one another.
Churches tend to have it backwards when we minister to those on the margins when it comes to food. We often like to feed people the food without first seeking to enter into reconciliation with those on the margins. When we participate in the work of reconciliation, we proclaim Christ. When we share a meal, share in life, we commune with Christ and we commune with others through living in community. This is why at REMERGE we are always practicing the art of eating together in unity. We each take a part of the meal each showing how we are all sharing in the whole.
This is how we are practicing the Ministry of Reconciliation with those on the margins. We invite you to join us sometime in one of our communities!