Gospel Truth (Part 3) - The Ministry of Reconciliation

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Series: Gospel Truth

Sunday 22nd January 2017 – Justus Swart

2 Cor. 5:16-21; (1 Cor. 2:15); Gal. 1:3-10; Rom. 14:1-4; (2 Cor. 5:20)

Jesus came to earth to bridge the divide between us and God. The cross represents our access to God the Father. His goal was to create a way for God and man to be in relationship by providing the once for all sacrifice to give us access to the Father. The word used to describe this process in Scripture is “reconciliation”. To reconcile means to restore friendly relationships after a time of separation or division; to create a space of co-existence and harmony between two entities. Jesus came to earth to reconcile us to God and to create that space called the Church where we stand freely before God, our sin taken care of, standing in the provision of Jesus. Now we have a way to live in harmony and friendship with God. God has reconciled me to Himself but what does reconciliation mean in my life? How do I take on these attributes and live it out in my world? Reconciliation starts with a change of perspective. Our point of view has to change when we accept Jesus into our lives, and the point of view from which we regard the world is no longer compatible with our faith. Paul is urging us to align ourselves to a spiritual perspective of the world (2 Cor. 5:16-17). It is time to change the criteria on which we base our previous judgements of the world and other people. All the judgements we make; all the external qualifications used make a deduction about the things around us and people around us …. Paul says, “Judge no-one after the flesh”. The worldly perspective is really impressed with titles and achievements. To label Jesus as a moral philosopher or a teacher is to completely misunderstand His Messianic identity. We are a new creation and we are called to look at people differently. When we come to Church we are looking at people born from the breath of God; people who God created with purpose and value. It is the only true way of knowing yourself in relation to others and to God. Reconciliation is based on one fact along – He loved you before you loved. The problem however, becomes more pronounced when we introduce the idea of being reconciled to one another; to be reconciled to the Body.

When I come to church and thank the Lord for forgiveness etc. and I look to somebody else and I cut them off from my life, I am acting like a consumer and not like a follower of Jesus. Are you a dispenser of grace, or are you a consumer? To understand the gospel means to give up our right to freedom. You belong to God; He paid for you with His life. You cannot own Christ; He lays claim to you and your life, and your future. Despite this we continue to look at the family of God with judgement and we draw divisive lines in the family according to our perspective.

At the end of the day if we think of reconciliation as external qualifications and dismiss people based on their behaviour. We end up keeping a little distance between us, just enough that you think, “I am ok with you”, but I am not. One mistake is that we think being reconciled to one another is to accept everything about someone. That is not true. That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:19-21). This helps us understand reconciliation a little bit better. The spiritual man makes judgement on all things (1 Cor. 2:15), but what we are talking about here is the categorizing of people. God approaches us through Christ, and this is the pattern we are called to follow. If we were called to value people in their ability to be good Christians, Church would be a war zone. We think it is our job to fix people and make them good Christians.

If I can only be reconciled to you when you are a mature Christian, then it will not work. We are all still reaching for it. Christ belongs to the righteous and the wicked alike. We find value in each other not because you greet me or are kind to me but because Christ stands between you and me. So I cannot cut you off without cutting Christ off. This is the pattern we are called to follow and this is how we are to regard people, through Christ. This requires that we accept the people sitting next to you, even though they may be rough around the edges, you are called to the same Body.

This marks a dramatic shift away from the idea that broken people come into the Church to be fixed. We can become fixated on the idea that as believers we should create a list of exactly what believers should or should not do; how they should act and how they should not act. Some may do something uncharacteristic of the Christian faith, but why is our knee-jerk reaction to disassociate with them? When I say, “That is not very Christian”, I am cutting myself off from others.

We forget that Christianity does not come naturally. Jesus has to teach us how to pray; He has to teach us how to forgive because it is not a natural feeling. It is the re-training of our desires. It is training to desire God above ourselves. The weakest, the strongest and every one in between stand only because the Lord makes them stand (Rom. 14:1-4). The strong and the weak stand only because of God’s grace. Reconciliation has to go beyond our judgement of whether people are good Christians or not. Reconciliation has to go beyond hurt we have incurred by being in the Body. Nobody can be part of the church without incurring hurt on some level.

Let us dismiss 2 myths of reconciliation:
1. That you have to accept everything about each other. In reality you do not have to accept negative behaviour in order to be reconciled. You do not have to accept the actions of someone to be reconciled to them.
2. That turning a blind eye is the same as being reconciled. In reality you do not have to turn a blind eye to in order to be reconciled to your neighbour.
3. If I wait long enough I will get over it. Not so, you have to face it. If it were so, reconciliation would be nullified by the fact that we would think we were doing a good deed. You have to face each other. In fact you have to challenge yourself to forgive.

This precious ministry is our way of understanding that each one of us has an immeasurable intrinsic value, because in Christ we are a new creation. It takes time and patience to not go for revenge and to turn the other cheek. God did not turn a blind eye to our sin. He faced it with sacrificial love. Sacrificial love means coming into contact, laying down your arms. When Christ came and faced us with His love, He showed us that we are to face one another. Paul says we are ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). It is God working through us. If God did not count men’s sins against them, then we are called to do the same. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation to build the Body, not to break it down. Your life and the decisions you make and the way you treat other people is an extension of your ministry coming from this church. How you treat others outside of this church is an extension of this church’s very ministry. It is how you treat your neighbour, how you treat the car guard, the people who cut you off in traffic. That is Bizweni’s ministry. You are ambassadors of Christ. It is all part of this ministry of reconciliation.