As I meditate on this weeks message, I wonder what does it truly mean to be a reconciling church. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, to reconcile is to “settle, to resolve, to reestablish a close relationship.” As the church, we are to be agents of this reconciliation between the people of this world and God. That’s a tall order to fill.
The church is a community of believers. More than that, the church is the body of Christ. It is Christ here on earth. And in Jesus there is found reconciliation. There is found the making right the relationship between us and God.
The church is no longer central to society. It’s the truth. If you don’t believe me, then go ahead and see what happens on Wednesdays and Sundays. Soccer and baseball games. The center will not hold. The church is on the fringes where it should be. It is on the fringes and needs to be the reconciling agent for those on the fringes.
The prophet Isaiah, writing during a time of turmoil and pain in the history of Israel, declares words from God
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6
To fast is to worship God. And being the reconciling church, we worship God by being reconciling agents of His truth, helping those oppressed. Now this might scream of what many call social justice. I don’t like social justice. I think it’s a fraud and legalism. But that’s for another post.
There is oppression in this world and that is true. But there is also sin that oppresses people. The sin that they fall into themselves and the sin caused by others. There are people who are oppressed by poverty because of their own sinful decisions and there are those in poverty because of the sinful decisions of others. Jesus says that we will always have the poor amongst us (Mark 14:7). But that doesn’t mean we can’t be used to alleviate the pains of poverty and help those in need.
God goes on to speak through Isaiah when he says
“Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:7
And later God says
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, and the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed then your light will shine in the darkness.” Isaiah 58:9-10
As reconciling agents, we are to do the holy work of Jesus as sanctified sanctifyers helping others become reconciled to Jesus.
And how do we do this? Through our own pain and struggles. We’ve all had pain and we’ve all had issues. And we use these issues and pain to help others in their struggles. We who belong to Jesus can become what Henri Nouwen calls a wounded healer.
A wounded healer is someone who has been wounded and knows it. A wounded healer opens up themselves to others, offering room for them to be wounded as well, giving hospitality for others to heal.
People are oppressed. They are oppressed by their past. They are oppressed by their own sins. They are oppressed by their own bad decisions. They are oppressed by their guilt, grief, pain and hurt. Being a wounded healer we open ourselves up to them, showing them the reconciling love of Jesus.
As the reconciling church, we are to be used to help people break off the chains that tie them down to their own pains and hurts. Too many times we allow our past guilt, our hurts, our pains, our loneliness, our frustrations to chain us down. We allow our own sins to get in the way and hurt and harm us, oppressing us. As the reconciling church, we are to help the oppressed be free of this, helping them reestablish a relationship with God, helping them become free of being imprisoned to themselves.
As the reconciling church, as agents of reconciliation, we are to help the oppressed be free from the prison of guilt, shame, pain, hurt, and more.
We read in the New Testament
“If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old is gone and the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled himself to us through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-18
Through Jesus, God has made it possible for the oppressed to be made free. Our act of worship as the church is to help those become free. Through worshiping God through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, freedom can be found. When we come and hear the preaching of God’s Word, when we come and worship Him through our words and actions, we are able to be free indeed. We are able to learn about this ministry of reconciliation. We are able to live out this ministry of reconciliation.
It starts with worship. It starts with worshiping God. And then it moves on to living as the church as a wounded healer, as a reconciling agent.
How can you live as the church as a wounded healer, as a reconciling agent?