Christian Practice, Part 5: Reconciliation

The next practice I believe to be fundamental to Christian practice is reconciliation. I wanted to go with peace, but sticking with my behavioral focus on practice I'm going with reconciliation as the practice which culminates in peace.

The Biblical witness strongly supports the notion of reconciliation as a core Christian practice. Two quick examples,

2 Corinthians 5: 18-20a
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors.

Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

What, then, is entailed in the practice of reconciliation? I can do no better than to point you to the work of John Paul Lederach, one of the world experts on peace building and conflict resolution. Lederach is a committed Mennonite, whose faith has profoundly affected his work. I particularly point you to his book Building Peace: Sustainable reconciliation in divided societies.

In Building Peace, Lederach states that reconciliation is place where four things come together. These four things Lederach discovered by listening to Psalm 85 being read in Nicaraguan villages at the start of village meetings as peace builders attempted to do grassroots work to bring peace to that country. In Spanish translation, Psalm 85: 10 says, "Truth and mercy have met together; peace and justice have kissed." That image of truth and mercy meeting and peace and justice kissing led Lederach to conclude that true reconciliation needs all four of those components:

1. Truth: Acknowledgment, transparency, revelation, clarity, accountability, vulnerability
Unless the parties are open and honest with each other, true reconciliation cannot be had. Confession is a critical aspect of truth.

2. Mercy: Forgiveness, compassion, acceptance.
Mercy involves the idea of grace. But mercy alone is superficial. It needs, as its companion,...

3. Justice: Equality, right relationship, making things right, restitution, fairness
Without attempts to restore dignity and equality, the brokenness created by the conflict continues to fester.

4. Peace: Harmony, unity, well-being, security, respect
Peace is the prevailing atmosphere of security and respect between all parties. Without that atmosphere, suspicions and fears reemerge.

Building Peace goes on to discuss, in practical terms, the praxis of reconciliation and peace building from low-level grassroots interventions (e.g., local leaders, local health officials, refugee camp leaders) to middle-level interventions (e.g., ethnic/religioius leaders, academics, humanitarian leaders) to high-level interventions (e.g., military leaders, political leaders). If you are interested in the practice of peace, in a vocational sense, please pick up Building Peace and see if it lights a passion in you. If so, in universities across the country, conflict resolution and peace building degrees are popping up. ACU has such a degree online.

But for us today on this blog, I'd like to end with a more mundane focus: Peace building in the relationships around us. For it seems that reconciliation is more foundational to the Christian faith than worship itself. As Jesus said,

Matthew 5: 23-24
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

How many Christians fail to get this message? Believing that the practice of their faith is mainly about church attendance?

But we live in a horribly violent world full of conflict. Sometimes it is overwhelming to think "What can I do to bring peace into this world?" All I can say is, quoting Gandhi (I keep coming back to that guy!), is "be the change you want to see in the world."

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2 thoughts on “Christian Practice, Part 5: Reconciliation”

  1. Thanks. I have been preaching a series on forgiveness and this week, I am focusing on reconciliation. This resource is though provoking. I wanted you to know that somehow, I had trouble reading the right edge of your blog - don't know why, but it cuts off part of the right edge. Hm.
    What college are you at?
    Karen Altergott

  2. Mat 5:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God" (NRSV). While most of the violencemakers are men, most peacemakers at the grassroots are mainly women. Therefore it does not make sense to use a version that seem to privilege men. I am a woman and I know that God knows me as God's daughter not son. So sad that some church corners can still stick to versions of the Bible that exclude women. In most cases such exclusive English words are not even based on being faithfulness to the original languages of the Bible. Please be more inclusive in your posts...Advent blessings, my brother. Fulata

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