Pastoral Series

Reconciliation: our witness to the world

Reconciliation:  our witness to the world

The godfather of modern evangelical thought, Francis Schaeffer, wrote these wise words:  “Love – and the unity it attests to – is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world.  Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.  It may be possible to be a Christian without showing the mark, but if we expect non-Christians to know that we are Christians, we must show the mark.”

When Paul explained that we are to be reconciled to God, and then to be engaged in reconciliation with others, he explains that when we do we are “ambassadors” for Christ; in fact, “God makes his appeal to the world through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20).  Our witness to the goodness of God, and even the reality of a loving God is not an option, not extra credit for more zealous Christians.  This is the Christian life, making peace with others, realizing that the world really is watching.

And not just watching, but judging – and rightly so!  Expanding on Jesus’ though that “by this shall all men know you are my disciples,” Schaeffer claims something that should make us shudder:  “In the midst of our present dying culture, Jesus is giving a right to the world.  Upon his authority he gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians.”  Amazing: we are not to judge one another; but God gives the world the right to judge us.

How we live matters.  If we exude anger, or a judgmental spirit, we falsify the God we say we believe in.  We don’t have to be sugary sweet.  But we never settle for division, we never boast we are superior, we never sit in smug judgment on somebody else.  How strange, in our world of anger, blame, self-justification, and fake news.

Christianity seems to be under threat, exposed to much ridicule, maybe even in danger of extinction.  But this was true during the earliest decades of the Church’s existence.  Christians were persecuted.  Onlookers mocked the absurdity of this new faith.  No one was sure the Church would survive.  In this circumstance, Christianity thrived.  How?  Not by having better ideas, or by being right, or by impressing anybody.  No, critics who hated Christianity were compelled, over and over, to observe, “See how they love.”  The anti-Christian emperor Julian the Apostate even complained, ““They love and take care of not only their own but all those who are in need.”  Our love, our unity, our ability to stick with others and wade through conflict into reconciliation:  this is, as Schaeffer describes it, “the final apologetic.”  If we aren’t loving agents of reconciliation, the church will continue to dribble away into nothingness; if we love and build bridges, we have the confident hope of thriving once more.  The world needs what we have – or should have, and could have, with God’s help.

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