A Midweek Devotional - Reconciliation
Zechariah 1:18-21 presents a picture of the Lord providing justice for His oppressed people. It is a message we need to hear today. It is a reminder to those who experience injustice that the Lord will make all things new. It is also a reminder to us all that as we seek justice, we are to do so as the Lord’s chosen instruments. As we explore that passage on Sunday we will seek to make application once again to our current moment. For today, though, let us consider a text particularly focused on reconciliation.
Wednesday, June 17th
Larger Portion of Scripture - 2 Corinthians 5
Focused Passage for Reflection - 2 Corinthians 5:18-21
Reflecting on the Text:
I’m sad. Perhaps you are too. Actually…hopefully you are too. I’m sad because the picture of brokenness in our world continues. It continues to gather new portraits of the victims of injustice. But the new pictures do not represent a new storyline. It is an old, old story. It is partially the story of racial tension, but more broadly it is the story of sin and sin’s outworking in terms of relational brokenness. We see that brokenness in man’s inhumanity toward man, but it is rooted in something far deeper. Man’s rebellion against God.
I see it. You see it. And (hopefully) it saddens us. But in our sadness, what are we to do about it? I’ve been burdened by this question. It is tempting to think I can address it in one fell swoop. But that ignores or minimizes several realities. It minimizes the good gospel work that has already gone into the issue of racial injustice (see the webinar mentioned below which speaks to the work begun over two years ago in our denomination). We must engage, but we must be committed to engaging over a lifetime of ministry. And in our engaging, let us be mindful that we are not loving a cause more than we are loving specific people.
Lest there be any confusion, all men and all women are created in the image of God and are thus worthy of dignity because of the One whose image they bear. The Scriptures call us to love our neighbor regardless of all the reasons we can come up with to not love them. The God of creation is a beautifully creative God who, in His wisdom, created humanity to be diverse. And in our diversity, we more fully bear His image together. So there is no place for the Christian to either actively or apathetically condone racism. No place for you. No place for me.
So again, what do we do about it? Well, as best I can tell, Paul seems to lay it out for us in 2 Corinthians 5. First, he stands for the gospel. The gospel, at its core, is how God reconciles lost sinners to Himself. Maybe I should say the gospel is the person by whom God reconciles lost sinners to Himself. It is the gospel of (or about) Jesus Christ. And in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Paul beautifully summarizes the gospel and its impact: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
“All” in this passage (as with the whole of Scripture) does not refer to “all without exception” but rather it speaks of “all without distinction.” Jesus died for people of all races…so that we might live for Him. For Paul, that meant he was controlled by the love of Jesus. It also meant that he was given the ministry of reconciliation.
Paul’s ministry of reconciliation was first and foremost a ministry of reconciling sinners to God through the work of Christ-proclaiming, Christ-exalting evangelism. The root of sin, including the sin of racism, is a heart at war with God. So Paul called for an end to the hostility by proclaiming the good news of a reconciling Savior. But Paul didn’t end there. His ministry of reconciliation was also a call to reconcile redeemed sinners to one another…again through the proclamation of the gospel.
Today it feels awfully ordinary to seek reconciliation through the dailiness of ministry. I’m sad and want to do something fast. But as best I can tell Paul seems to be speaking to a daily, ordinary ministry of reconciling sinners to God (through the proclamation of the gospel) and of reconciling sinners to one another (through the proclamation of the gospel). It feels ordinary, but let us stay the course. Let us listen to our friends. Let us listen to our culture. And let us listen to and respond with the Word.
Questions for personal reflection:
Are you reconciled to God the Father through God the Son? What has gotten in the way?
Are you reconciled to your fellow man? What gets in the way?