Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series.
I’ve been busy writing my dissertation on the church as a reconciling community. Two things are becoming more apparent to me each day that I research and write on this topic.
First, the church’s primary ministry is reconciliation. The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17-19:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
I believe that as part of the two great commandments that Jesus taught – love God, love others – reconciliation is between God and us, and between persons and groups.
Reconciliation covers a lot of territory including forgiveness, repentance, apology, mediation, peace-making, restorative justice, race relations, class and gender issues, and so on.
Reconciliation is a big tent that needs further exploration by local churches.
Second, the church is getting left behind in the search for the methods and means to offer reconciliation between persons and groups.
We’re pretty good at proclaiming and teaching about the reconciliation God offers us as God’s creation, but we’re not so good at extending that reconciliation to others, both as individuals and as groups.
For example, a recent study indicated that “marrying out is in.”
In other words, interracial or cross-cultural marriages are increasing in our society. I have yet to see anyone address constructively this developing trend.
I know in our community interracial couples (meaning black and white) are rarely part of anybody’s congregation.
I intend to write more about reconciliation, and how churches can develop an intentional and thoughtful ministry of reconciliation including consideration of multiculturalism, race relations, social and economic class, and gender issues.
Marriage is a hot topic right now, and part of the reason for the high level of both interest and hysteria is unreconciled differences between persons and groups of persons within our communities.
Finally, although I’ve used my two points, reconciliation practices open the door to masses of unreached people who are not like us in at least one way – color, country, faith or class being four of the biggest categories that divide people.
Of course, I realize that there are “irreconcilable differences” sometimes, but most of our differences are caused by a lack of understanding and intentionality about reconciliation and all its attendant corollaries.
Chuck Warnock is pastor of Chatham Baptist Church in Chatham, Virginia.