It doesn’t take a genius to look around us and see that we have a problem. It is not about the specifics of any one incident, but rather it is an environment that breeds contempt and distrust. It is ridiculous to think that we can either ignore or deny that there is a problem with racism in our country today. Benjamin Watson, a football player for the New Orleans Saints wrote an essay in which he said the following, “…ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own.” Clearly there is a divide that must be reconciled in order for there to be peace and harmony. Sociologists may see the problem in terms of poverty, economic injustice or lack of opportunity, but they are merely symptoms of the deeper sin problem. The Bible tells us that sin causes death and death is separation, not only from God, but also our fellow human beings.
Certainly, estrangement is not a new problem, nor can it be solved with economic or legislative remedies. Separation is at its root a spiritual problem that can only be solved by someone who has the power to change hearts. “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.” 1 Timothy 2:5–6 (NLT) We cannot truly be reconciled to one another until we are reconciled to God. In Christ Jesus, God forgave our sins so that the separation caused by sin could be reconciled.
This was the first step in bridging the sin divide between people. After we have been reconciled to God, he then gives us the responsibility to bring reconciliation to others. “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18–19 (NLT)
Once we begin to grasp the idea that we are called upon to be ministers of reconciliation, we must transition from passive agreement to active participation. Reconciliation requires effort to identify offenses and wounds that may have been forgotten or buried beneath the surface. Being an active participant in reconciliation is not optional for the one who desires their own offerings and gifts to be pleasing to God. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23–24 (NIV) Jesus deliberately elevated the requirement of reconciliation as a prerequisite for acceptable worship. We must also be careful to avoid seeking loopholes with regard to who is our brother, sister or for that matter neighbor. (Luke 10:27-37)
Our assignment is clear, God having reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, has given us the mission of bringing his reconciliation to those around us. We must do so deliberately and intentionally. It may be uncomfortable and awkward at times. It may cost us other relationships with those who choose to hold on to bitterness and prejudice, but our efforts will be a sweet fragrance before the throne of God.
“Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled." -Charles Wesley