Who do You need to be Reconciled with?
Think for a moment about how divided our society is. We are deeply divided by politics, preferences, and theology, and division has become more common than unity or peace between individuals. What is most interesting is that these divisions are also common among God's people and Jesus came to bring peace between us and God and between us and other members of His family.
In fact, think of the significance of the announcement to the shepherds in Bethlehem on the eve of Jesus' birth. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Peace is one of the most elusive of humanity's desires. It has always been so since our forefathers left the garden. And into a world of conflict, the Savior came to be our peace (Ephesians 2:14) and reconcile us to God. And, to reconcile us to one another (Galatians 3:26-29). The words and message of reconciliation and peace blanket the New Testament.
Think about this. Jesus became man and died so that we could be reconciled to God. And then He called us to be reconciled to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and to live at peace to the greatest extent of our ability with all people. If Jesus cared so deeply about reconciliation, we should as well - starting with our families where estrangement is so common, our churches where unity is often compromised, among fellow believers where we are too quick to live with critical spirits, and a society that loves to divide rather than unite.
And the thing about Advent is that God did not wait until we asked for reconciliation. He took the first step. He came to us when we were not looking for Him. He humbled himself (Philippians 2:1-11) rather than waiting for us to humble ourselves. What gets in the way of our taking the first step? Ego and pride. This is why it is so fascinating that Jesus describes himself as "gentle and humble in heart" (Matthew 11:29).
And we are called to emulate that humility in our relationships with one another. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8).
And God did not wait until we asked for reconciliation. He took the first step. He came to us when we were not looking for Him. He humbled himself (Philippians 2:1-11) rather than waiting for us to humble ourselves.
This raises some questions worth considering:
- Is there someone I am estranged from that I can attempt to be reconciled to?
- If there is, am I, like Jesus willing to humble myself and take the first step even if I am the aggrieved?
- Are there ways that I can help bring reconciliation between others who are estranged?
- How can I help bring reconciliation between races and people groups who live in estrangement?
Reconciliation is a deeply Christian value rooted deeply in the incarnation where the God of Scripture did what no other God of any religion had ever done: Became a creature so that the creatures could be reconciled to the Creator. Every time I pray for reconciliation, attempt reconciliation, or humble myself to bring reconciliation, I mirror the character of Jesus. The mark of a believer is that he/she has been reconciled to God in Jesus and in turn, brings reconciliation between peoples who are in conflict.
Father, thank you for taking the step that brought me into a relationship with you. Give me the humility and courage to reconcile with those I have differences with to the extent that I can. Help me to emulate you in bringing peace to a divided world. Amen.