Pastoral Series

Reconciliation: Right and Wrong

Reconciliation: Right and Wrong

I worry when we think about and try to embrace this whole idea of reconciliation.  It might easily be taken to imply that Anything goes, Nothing really matters – a kind of laid back relativism that could care less about truth or morality or holiness.

On the contrary.  There is truth; there is such a thing as right and wrong; facts exist; holiness is a real thing God expects of us.  During the election, we cried out against dishonesty, and now we’re fixated on fake news and distrust of any and everybody.  But there still is truth, and it can and must be known.  With politicians we support, and in our own lives, we look right past much that is not of God – but God still demands that we be holy, that morality isn’t equal to my political or personal preferences.

And God’s holiness isn’t equal to society’s ethical norms and political biases.  Jesus calls us to something higher, nobler, and pretty different from mere avoidance of lawbreaking or not offending anybody, or getting your pet ideas for America enacted.  There are Christian things we are accountable to, and which expose some of our political preferences as just plain unchristian. Some people like to label unchristian thought and action as being “Christian,” but it is not so.  Jesus’ vision is for an inner and outer purity that cherishes all of God’s creatures and cares for the people others would shun.  It just is.

After all, people coming together isn’t inherently wonderful.  Germans united and rallied around Hitler, but the unity was evil.  Christian reconciliation envisions rallying around the good, even around God.

So the question: How do you reconcile with someone who is just flat out wrong?  There are three keys here.  (1) We begin in utter, unprideful humility, and admit that what I think is moral may not be so grand; what I think I’ve got all figured out, I might be getting wrong; my standards of truth and goodness might be a thin pasting over of my own self-interest and bias.  (2) The other guy is a mess, too – but he might be onto something I’ve been missing.  Maybe there’s some learning and growing for me that I can only get from the one I think is terribly misguided.  Maybe not, but maybe.  Probably.

And then (3) even if you are right, even if you see truth clearly, even if you have diagnosed the evil out there – we still have the responsibility to reconcile with the other person, the other people, to love, to maintain relationship. The holiest people I know are always peaceful; they aren’t easily thrown off balance; they never respond in kneejerk fashion; they love what seems unlovable; they are secure in who and whose they are, so they are capable of bearing the wrong of someone else.  They still know and work for good, but they aren’t mad, or stewing inside.

Reconciliation takes the form of hospitality.  Jesus, Paul, Hebrews, the Old Testament laws all insist that we welcome the stranger, the sinner, the outcast.  In our Bible and reconciliation program (which you should watch), Dianne English said hospitality really is about curiosity.  When I see someone who believes or thinks or lives differently, or even is dead wrong, am I fearful? or judgmental? or am I curious?  What can I learn here?  Aren’t Christians curious people?

The Bible insists, “Be reconciled.”  Like most commandments, there is so much mercy and joy hidden inside.  You can be right, and know well what’s wrong with the world, but miss out on the joy and mercy.  That would grieve God’s heart – and yours too.  Be reconciled.  Know that joy.

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