The word ‘reconciliation’ has become one of those ugly, politically charged words that bring on a new (and incorrect) cultural understanding of the word’s original intent in definition and usage.
The culture war definition of Reconciliation: People (specifically conservative Christians) have to fully agree with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people (and GLBT Christians) who are sexually active in a committed, monogamous relationship.
Within this new definition of reconciliation, it means that GLBT people reconcile their faith and sexuality with the understanding that people are born with a same-sex attraction, acting out on those attractions is not a sin, and living in a same-sex committed monogamous relationship is a happy, healthy, God-ordained way of life. Thus, whoever does not agree with any of these statements in homophobic or out of touch with reality.
That is not reconciliation! In fact, I think that definition is the exact opposite of reconciliation because if the gospel is all about reconciliation (which I believe it to be)—it’s purpose is to draw people closer to God and closer to each other. The culture war definition actually separates people from each other, and therefore can only separate people (and warring communities) from God as well. In no way, shape or form does the culture war definition represent any biblical (I am not talking about theology) form of reconciliation.
My bridge building definition of Reconciliation: Torn apart and ruined relationships through the Fall and through one another’s actions with each other, are all now redeemed in Christ; together, bonded in relationship with each other and God through Christ’s death on a cross.
“The only purpose of the gospel is to reconcile people to God and to each other. A gospel that doesn’t reconcile is not a Christian gospel at all. But in America it seems as if we don’t believe that. We don’t really believe that the proof of our discipleship is that we love one another (John 13:35)…
To be reconciled to each other, then, we must bear the burdens created by each other’s pasts. And to be reconcilers in the world, to bring others together, we must bear the burdens of both the parties we seek to reconcile…
We must be reconciled to both God and man. The gospel’s first work is to reconcile us to God (2 Cor. 5:18), then, if our relationship with God is right, it will show up in our relationships with each other (1 John 4:20). For my worship to be acceptable to God, I must be reconciled to my brother (Matthew 5:23-24). To be reconciled to my brother I must first be reconciled to God; to remain reconciled to God I must be reconciled to my brother. I cannot have one without the other…
If the purpose of the gospel is to reconcile us to God and to our fellowman, if your mission is to be God’s ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:20), how do we fulfill that mission?
We must model the kind of relationships into which we want to invite others. Our love for each other gives credibility and power to our witness. We must begin by being. Being, though, is not complete until it results in doing. As James says, “Faith, if it has no works, it’s dead”. A faith that doesn’t express itself in works is not a true faith. Now that’s good, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough to just be a reconciled fellowship, though that is where we have to start. We must be a reconciled fellowship on a mission. And our mission is to bring others into fellowship with God and with us.
And many of the people in the Christian community movement seem to lack this vision. They love each other, yet they lack the drive [to live it out].” Excerpts from racial reconciliation leader Dr. John Perkins in his book With Justice for All.
I have said many times that by in-large the Christian community has the God to human portion of reconciliation down. It’s the human to human piece many are missing. And on our last Live Chat I was corrected with an eye-opening revelation by someone named Blaser85:
“Andrew, you talk about the God to us part as we have it all figured out; that we’re just lacking the ‘us to us’ part. But I wonder if we really do understand and “get” the ‘God to us’ reconciliation part? My thought is that if we really did understand the ‘God to us’ part, then the ‘us to us’ part wouldn’t be hard at all! I don’t think we really understand how much God truly loves us and wants a relationship with us, giving us the freedom to choose Him and the relationship with each other. I think reconciliation with others would be much easier once we finally and correctly understand the ‘God to us’ reconciliation relationship.”
I am truly taken back by Blaser85’s insight—who couldn’t be more right! Well, I guess it’s time we all start reworking our understanding and subsequent reactions of what it means to have a reconciled relationship with God, because we obviously don’t have that figured out yet. If we did have it figured out, we wouldn’t be in this situation. So how are we then able to start learning how to reconcile each other to God and other people and communities? It’s a work in progress with God and each other.
Here is my understanding of the movements to reclaiming biblical reconciliation:
1. Legitimately enter into this journey with someone exactly opposite (theologically and socially) than yourself
2. Center God in the middle—not the culture war, sexuality, religion, work, hobbies, commonalities, clear differing points, etc.
3. Be committed for the long haul no matter what happens (the weak and those with excuses just give up); no matter who turns their back on who (go and relentlessly pursue them); who says whatever about the other (only face to face meetings to directly talk about it); who gets annoyed, angry, bored, frustrated, etc with the other (persistence in commitment is the only way growth happens).
4. Keep a consistent place (email, journal, blog) for individual and dual reflections of meetings, discussions and life experiences.
5. After a significant amount of time watch the bitterness fade away, the person flow forward and God light it all up. And if that doesn’t happen, keep repeating until Jesus returns.
Peace. God-centered. Biblical reconciliation. Out to the world.