So, now armed with an understanding of God and forgiveness you are ready to take up the task given to all followers of Jesus – being a minister of reconciliation. According to Paul’s writing in the fifth chapter of Second Corinthians we have been reconciled to God because that’s what he wants (not to hate, despise or tolerate us). In order to have this desired intimate relationship with God we have to accept his gracious offer of relationship.
Telling people of this relationship can be hard work. In the process we are “forced” to work with people who have hurt us, hurt others we care about, hurt people in our community or are just a “nuisance” for the rest of us to deal with. But God desires that all of us be reconciled to Him and He has done all the work necessary to make this happen.
The work of reconciliation involves at least three parts (as seen in 2 Corinthians 5). Ministers of Reconciliation must be:
- Controlled by the Love Christ’s Love (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). The love of God is unconditional and offered to all people. This “agape” love is the kind that God shows toward us. This unconditional love is offered even when we break fellowship, fall short or willfully choose bad behavior. The grace, mercy, forgiveness and peace that we want God to offer to us is also offered to everyone – even people we find hard to love. So how do we do this? We have a…
- Changed perception by our new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). Paul has stopped evaluating people from a human point of view. Jesus doesn’t see people for what they can do for him or for society, he sees them as created by God in his image and worthy of a loving relationship for that reason – no more is needed. When we believe God loves us and has forgiven us we are free. Free from our past, from the disappointments others have expressed in us, free from our frailties and weaknesses. We have been made new; new life, new heart, new eyes, new purpose. Therefore, we are free to love others and work with them so they can see that God loves them and wants them reconciled to Him. But this is hard because we must be…
- Committed to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2). The ministry of reconciliation is not done with fly-by encounters or easy discussions. Almost everyone has things deep inside that they believe will make God reject them – or at least put them on the junior varsity of humankind. Identifying these things, then talking (and praying) them through takes trust and time. But as Paul says, God sees us as partners in this ministry. We can do it. It’s just hard and time-consuming, but richly rewarding in the end. A significant piece of reconciliation involves the work of justice. I believe God’s highest idea of justice involves restoration, which leads to the same place as reconciliation. Basically there are three types of justice and all have their place.
- Restorative Justice – truth is told, forgiveness offered and accepted, relationship made right.
- Reparative Justice – truth is told, reparations are paid, forgiveness offered and accepted, relationships made right.
- Retributive Justice – truth is told, a price or cost of punishment is paid (i.e. – jail for murder), forgiveness offered and accepted, relationships made right.
Now of course it’s not that simple or cut-and-dry, but that’s the process by which reconciliation works. Perhaps the most important part of this ministry to remember is that as ambassadors for God we are his image bearers in the world. So we need to ask if we make an attractive Jesus in how we treat others. N.T. Wright – Image Bearers of God