“No one heals himself by wounding another.” – St. Ambrose
“The essence of forgiveness is absorbing pain instead of giving it.” – Timothy Keller
“Forgiveness empowers God’s new creation people with a revolution that turns hate into love, bitterness into hope, and sorrow into dancing.” – Derek Vreeland
“Forgiveness is front and center in God’s kingdom, front and center in the Lord’s Prayer–forgiving one another as God forgives us.” – Peri Zahnd
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” – Jesus
The Church is the primary location for the kingdom of God on earth. The place where God’s love and grace should be most prominent.
The role of the Church in the world is to be an embassy for the Kingdom of God where Christ reigns as King and Lord. And, its citizens are the ambassadors.
The Church, therefore, is shaped and defined by the King and his kingdom. Its values and ethos look and sound like King Jesus. We take our cues from him.
And, nothing looks more like Jesus than his work of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.
Reconciliation is a reflection of God’s nature revealed in Christ
Jesus reveals what God is really like.
His words and works unveil God’s true nature to us.
Jesus’ prayer for peace in his sermon on the mount. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God,” captures the essence of his ministry and message.
Reconciliation and peace lay at the centre of God’s nature and activity. “While we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:8).
Forgiveness is rarely, if ever, deserved. But, always necessary. It’s a sign of the kingdom come finding expression in the kingdom now. It’s a new creation reality coming to earth as in heaven.
Reconciliation is a kingdom quality modeled in the church
The church as Christ’s ambassadors is called to mimic his life, values, and words out into the world – it is our collective vocation as his followers.
When we do this, we reflect God’s love and life out into his creation.
Peace and reconciliation ought to lie at the centre of the church’s life and witness as we reflect God out into the world.
Reconciliation as the message, ministry, and mission of the church
Consider these two reference points:
2 Corinthians 5:18 – God has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:19 – God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.
What does this tell us about the central ministry and message of the Church?
We are ambassadors of the kingdom of God where Christ rules as Lord and King. And, the primary message that captures the essence of this kingdom is reconciliation.
Peace and reconciliation are anchored in Jesus’ life, teachings, death, and resurrection.
Christ on the cross unveils the identity and nature of God as one who reaches out to the other, even the enemy, and seeks reconciliation.
As ambassadors of reconciliation, we are given the vocation and task to embody this message in our words and actions. In so doing, we continue in the ministry of Jesus and “God makes his appeal through us” as ambassadors.
This is what people born anew, new creation people, look and sound like.
The essence of new creation people is to seek reconciliation and peace, which comes through forgiveness.
We are reconciled to God and then live reconciling lives.
We seek to end the cycle of violence through forgiveness and reconciliation, rather than continue in the cycle of violence through revenge and retaliation.
The realness of reconciliation finds expression in our relationships with one another. The reality of forgiveness we experience with God through Christ, now finds evidence in all of our other relationships.
It is an embodied reconciliation.
The dividing wall is broken down, and we are all one in Christ.
This is our message, ministry, and mission in, to, and for the world.
Formed by peace prayers
I remember Brian Zahnd once made this statement as it relates to the purpose of prayer:
The purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what we want God to do. The purpose of prayer is to be properly formed.
May this prayer from St. Francis of Assisi become a daily reminder to be properly formed by Jesus’ life, message, and ministry of reconciliation and peace. Recite it. Memorize it. Believe it. Embody it.
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.