Sunday, April 3, 2011

Reconciliation

Reconciliation is a powerful, wonderful, and precious gift. All too often we take this daily renewed blessing for granted. During my spring break, I spent a week in East St. Louis with about 150 other college students in InterVarsity, volunteering in the community to reconcile the immense differences that caused huge chasms within the community, even between neighbors.

Merriam-Webster provides the following definitions for the verb reconcile:

  • to restore to friendship or harmony; settle; resolve
  • to make consistent or congruous
  • to cause to submit or to accept something unpleasant
  • to check against another for accuracy; to account for

From what I can gather, these definitions have direct connections with the Bible's teachings. In fact, they practically yell "listen to Jesus!"

How? Take a look at the words in the definitions: "friendship", "harmony", "accept", and "account."

The Bible teaches us to love our neighbors, to be a friend to the friendless, to accept and love others as God loves us all, and to hold ourselves accountable for our thoughts, words, and actions and humbly ask for forgiveness when we fall short.

Are you with me now? Reconciliation is absolutely necessary in our lives, in our communities, in our world.


The only problem is, if you read this in the way I intended, the idea of reconciliation probably gave you that warm fuzzy feeling, maybe even a little burst of "I'm going to change the world" oomph. It's a wonderful feeling, don't get me wrong. I absolutely love understanding what I can do to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, I tend to look for ways that don't require me to step more than a couple feet outside my comfort zone. As long as the situations are familiar, but just a little more unfortunate, a little less pretty, a little more complicated...then I'm okay.


It is the painful truth for most of us. More painful than this truth, however, is understanding that there are many, many people who need love, care, and support; who need to hear the Good News and come to understand the Lord's unconditional love for them -- and these people, we do not help.


And why not? Does this make us 'bad Christians'? I don't think that is necessarily true, but I do believe that we are trying to pull a bit of a Jonah, running away from God's call to us to clothe the naked and feed the hungry.


How do you expect to reconcile differences in your community if you don't go out into the areas that are actually different? If the people you aim to help are more or less like you, with minor differences, then you really aren't reconciling any differences at all. You are helping those who are just like you.

So now what? What is the "next step"? How does one truly reach out to those in need? To those who are different? How do I find the places that call out for God's love and genuine human care? And for the women who might read this, how do I balance helping those in unsafe or dangerous neighborhoods without putting myself into compromising, unsafe, or dangerous situations? How do we know when should we rely on God to keep us safe and when He wants us to use our common sense to protect ourselves from harm?


I think that these are all valid questions. I wish I had an answer. Every time I return from a service project or mission trip these questions come up and I mull them over in my mind. I have yet to resolve the internal conflict, but I know one thing for sure -- none of the answers are in black and white.


Our world today is colored in various shades of gray: from black to charcoal, from slate to silver, from ash to white. There is no definitive answer, but I strongly believe that having these questions and keeping an open heart and mind while praying on them leads to understanding. It is through that understanding that we may be equipped to go out into the world and be the eyes, the hands, the feet, and the heart of Jesus to all those around us.


Complete reconciliation will only come in Heaven, but for now I am pleased to be one of many working and praying to share a little piece of Heaven with those of us still living on Earth.

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