Central to God’s heart is community. From before the beginning of time, God dwelt in the triune community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He created man for community with Him and with each other.
The great tragedy of the fall (Gen. 3) is that perfect community was broken, but it was not lost forever. This is because from that moment to this, the movement of God has always been toward reconciliation—restoring what was broken.
Through the Old Testament, the Lord called and initiated reconciliation with mankind. In Malachi, He says, “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” In the New Testament, Jesus seeks and invites us to return, to be restored—to be reconciled to Him.
Of course, the greatest act of reconciliation was the cross. Since my earliest days as a believer, I have always been moved by the truth of Romans 5:10. Before I knew Jesus, before I even cared—while I used His name to curse—even then, He loved me and died specifically for me. No wonder Paul wrote to the Romans:
“For if when were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10, NKJV).
Perhaps these are Paul’s best-known words about reconciliation:
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 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 people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us" (2 Cor. 5:17-20, NIV).
Once again we see that God takes the initiative in reconciliation. The Lord works through forgiveness and restoration, which are embedded in the idea of reconciliation. And because Christ’s heart now beats in us, we are a whole new creation. But not only do we rejoice in the knowledge and experience of living this new reconciled life—we are given an assignment: to be ambassadors of Christ, committed to extending reconciliation to others.
This must never stop at theological concept. That is the easy ground of the believer. As disciples, we are called to take the hard ground of living in reconciliation.
When we choose to believe the best of someone else’s words or actions, when we live invitingly and inclusively, then we are living as followers of the seeking and inviting Jesus whose entire mission was reconciliation. This, in part, is why we are called a new creation.
Our fallen nature at its core separates and evaluates. This is why organizations (including churches) so easily build walls, separating “us” from “them.” We become secure in our corporate definition of who we are, of what it means to be “us.” Yes, this is so instinctual that we hardly give it any notice; however, it is the instinct of our fallen nature. At its core, this is opposite to God’s ever-reconciling Spirit.
Therefore, we must embrace decisions and actions that intentionally come in the opposite spirit, swimming against the tide of both our fallen selves and the world’s momentum. Every time we embrace reconciliation, we are moving in the rhythm of the King. He always moves toward reconciliation, and if we will be His disciples, we must move in step with Him.
Following Jesus, therefore, means refusing to isolate myself or even emotionally pull back from another person. I am following the seeking and inviting King. Choosing a lifestyle of reconciliation in attitude and action allows the reality of the kingdom to flow through me to others, thereby changing the atmosphere and the possibilities.
Jesus challenges all those who will be His disciples to lay down their lives—their preferences, presuppositions (and yes, our prejudices). When we, our churches, our organizations or our nations move counterintuitively—toward those individuals and countries that we disagree with—when we choose reconciliation, we are moving in the rhythm of the King. And when we move with Him, we step into a whole new world of possibilities.
Steve Stewart is the founder of Impact Nations, a Christian organization that brings hope and restoration to the poor and vulnerable in the developing world through both supernatural and practical expressions of the kingdom of God. Follow Steve on Twitter at @impactnations or learn more at impactnations.com.
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