Chris Rice and Emmanuel Katongole have written a short book on Reconciliation that is a really helpful new resource for those who are interested. It’s called Reconciling All Things, A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing. (IVP).
Perhaps the most important thing they suggest, aimed at those who are passionate about Reconciliation, is to take a time out. They argue that without a theological framework for understanding our topic, we will run amuck being faddish, individualistic, justice-fighting or “rescuers” like fireman racing into save everyone. These are all quite unsustainable, unwise and unbiblical notions.
They ask “what and where are the patterns of life and social structures to sustain a vision of reconciliation?” and “the question we want to ask is, reconciliation toward what?”
Quite rightly the authors suggest that for Christians reconciliation is a gift of God. It can’t be pursued like a check off added to the long list of “to-do’s” or well intended newest church “programs.” Real reconciliation is anchored in the dramatic legacy of the story of God. It is about creation-fall-redemption-culmination. It is interlaced into this story of redemption. To find it cheaply or quickly scheduled into our strategic plans or even our “calling” is to miss the point.
The legacy of the story of God includes the idea that some of the wounds of Christ are yet to be fulfilled. That is, Paul tells us that for the Christian we are going to fill up the suffering of Christ that is not yet complete. The process of reconciliation is anchored in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Suffering is part of the deal to enter into reconciliation. (Rice sites the experience of many IV staffers who found that literal death set in early for many who thrust their life into reconciliation).
So I am in agreement with Rice and Katongole that we must pull back, reflect and develop a theology sufficient to sustain us in a walk. I am also in agreement with them that this is NOT primarily for experts, scholars, pastors or ministry leaders. It is for ALL who call themselves Christians.
What I don’t completely understand is how. How do we find the space in our lives to pull back? It seems like a luxury I don’t have. How do we engage the body of Christ beyond the experts and leaders and a handful with a passion? I don’t know but hope I can learn.
Such communities of reconciliation are not possible without transformative experiences and engagements sustained by prayer and listening to God, life together worshiping communities, a sense of belonging to places of pain, the long term power of persuasion, and practices such as the capacity to absorb pain without passing that pain on to others. All of these arise from the deep conviction about God and Jesus Christ.