Our world is a divided place. Nations are at odds with other nations just as street gangs fight with other street gangs. Here in America, there is growing hostility between Democrats and Republicans. And then there is the problem between the Western World and Muslims which is an entirely different beast. Who’s right and who’s wrong?
Here’s a newsflash: We are all sinners!
On the other hand, God has called the church to make known the wisdom of God that is destroying the hostility and reconciling all people through the death of Jesus unto God as one people (cf. Eph 3:11-12). But I must ask: Are Christians in America really interested in this missional calling? Or would we rather defend a tribal god over someone else’s tribal god? When we become more known for being Democrats and Republicans, championing our own tribe while demonizing the other, it sure smells of tribalism rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ that offers reconciliation.
There are other ways in which Christians have served the gods of tribalism have been served in the past. Rwanda always comes to mind as a recent example of Christians placing tribal loyalties above God’s mission, the ministry of reconciliation. Consequently, Christians were divided into two tribal camps, Hutus and Tutsis, and the result was a massacre. Another example is the American Civil War where Christians placed allegiance as people of the Union and Confederate States above God’s work of reconciliation. Even when our citizenship as Americans is placed above our call to God’s mission, we return to tribalism and jeopardize our ability to be ministers of reconciliation.
Right now there is a lot of animosity that exists between Muslims and the Western World? So how do we respond? Here is where American Christians need to pause and take a deep breath: Are we more interested in being American and thereby pitting ourselves against Muslims or are do we want to serve God as ministers of reconciliation? I’m not asking about what we think about the violent and deadly acts of radical Islamic terrorists. Those acts, committed by a small percentage of Muslims, are wrong. What I’m asking about is whether or not we want to bear witness to God’s work of reconciliation or not. Because how we speak and act about this issue will either serve this business of reconciliation or hinder it.
What we say and do will either help tear down the existing hostility or add to it. What we post on Facebook and other social-media networks will either build bridges leading to reconciliation or build a seemingly insurmountable barrier. Most importantly, we will never have the opportunity to preach and teach the gospel that brings about reconciliation so long as we are serving to create more barriers and hostility.
The apostle Paul was a champion of this ministry of reconciliation He refused to see people from a “worldly point of view,” having received from God this ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:16, 18). Ever wonder why? I believe it all stems back to Paul’s encounter of the risen Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (cf. Acts 9:1-31; 22:1-22; 26:9-24).
When Jesus confronted Paul (then Saul), Paul realized how much of a sinner he was. He also realized how much of a sinner both Jews and Gentiles were, with both totally dependent on the grace of God for salvation. Paul further realized that the cross of Jesus Christ was the only way for the wounds to be healed, for the hostility to be destroyed, and for peace with God and each other to be established. So Paul went about proclaiming this peace offering, otherwise known as the ministry of reconciliation and letters like Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Romans are dealing with this very issue.
It makes me wonder: when tribalism is placed above participation in the ministry of reconciliation, have we lost sight of the risen Jesus Christ?
By the way, if you have not read this yet then you should take a few minutes and read Sean Palmer’s article about reconciliation titled Missing the Point on the New Wineskins site.