Edited April 1, 2009
Jesus Our Reconciliation Rich Nathan March 28-29, 2009 Just Give Me Jesus 2 Corinthians 5:18-21
Some of you know that along with some other Vineyard leaders from across the country and our associate pastor, Bill Christensen, I spent the last couple of weeks in the Middle East. We were in Lebanon visiting Beirut as well as Tyre and Sidon where Jesus did ministry. We then went to Damascus, Syria, Amman, Jordan. We spent a considerable amount of time on the West Bank with Palestinian Arabs. We went to Israel and then finished our trip by doing a conference for pastors in Jordan. It was for me like having a graduate school education in two weeks. We met with some of the top business and governmental leaders as well as top Muslim and Christian religious leaders in several of the countries. What I discovered was that there were multiple perspectives on what would bring healing and peace to the Middle East. And these multiple political perspectives were further confused by multiple religious perspectives. In Lebanon alone there are 18 different religious parties – Shiite, Sunni, Druse which is a sect of Islam, Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Catholic, etc. And then on top of the political and religious differences there are also massive theological differences through which Christians view the Middle East situation. Is the secular State of Israel a fulfillment of biblical prophecy? Does the church replace Israel? How do we understand the message of the Kingdom of God in light of contemporary events in the Middle East? Suffice it to say, we had dozens and dozens of conversations offering differing perspectives on this very troubled part of the world. The need for reconciliation The fact is the Middle East is a microcosm of all of the world’s divisions concentrated in a very small area. The divisions are physically expressed by a several hundred mile long wall that Israel is constructing between itself and Gaza and the West Bank. We encountered many folks who have suffered greatly as the result of the 60 years of warfare and strife in the Middle East. We met many people who had lost relatives – parents, grandparents, cousins – in the bombings. Nineteen of these graves are occupied by children, who unfortunately lost their lives in an Israeli bombing of this South Lebanese town. They were hiding in a couple of houses when bombs dropped on them.
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But it is not only in loss of life that you see the suffering of people living in the Middle East. We visited a Palestinian Refugee Camp outside of Beirut where many of the Palestinians fled to after the 1948 war in Israel. Many Palestinians still live in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and the West Bank. Initially, they lived in tents, but after a while these tent cities became permanent cement block structures. Sadly, for the hundreds of thousands of folks still living in these refugee camps, there is no future for them. In Lebanon, Palestinians can’t get legal work permits, so a young man or a young woman growing up in a refugee camp has no hope of ever getting a decent job, or having any kind of sustained future income. Iranians are supplying the refugee camps with clean water. Everywhere you go in the refugee camps there are pictures of children who have been killed by Israelis and the symbol of Hezbollah, which is an emblem of a raised machine gun in the air. As you go through the camps, it absolutely breaks your heart. I thought to myself, what will ever bring hope and healing to the thousands of people who live here? Our little group had a meeting in one of the countries with one of the world’s most senior Muslim clerics. We had to go through a metal detector. This man has been the target of numerous assassination attempts. We began our meeting by listening to this cleric share a message on love from a Muslim perspective. We then began to dialogue with him and asked him some questions. The question I asked him was simply this: “What is your view of how Muslims could show understanding and bridge the gap of hatred between themselves and Jews living in Israel?” I said, “Many of the folks who created the State of Israel came out of an experience of the Holocaust in Europe. Jews thought that they were safe in France, but they discovered that they weren’t safe no matter how assimilated they were. They thought they were safe in Germany, but discovered that they weren’t secure there. All through Europe Jews found that they had no real home and so the State of Israel was born out of a deep need for safety and security. How do you begin to build bridges to this group of people, who feel a deep need for security?” I saw this religious leader’s face, countenance darken. A few minutes before he was talking about love. But he began to scream at me. He said, “People refuse to investigate the facts. There was no Holocaust. The Catholic church is even burying the facts.” I think he was referring to the recent controversy regarding the Catholic Bishop in England who is a Holocaust denier. He said, “Oh, maybe there were a couple of hundred thousand people killed, but there was no Holocaust.” His aides had to calm him down. The meeting, after all, was designed to win friends and influence people on the American side. But what I discovered was here was a man who simply refused to walk in the shoes of someone else on the other side, who may be suffering; a man, who because
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of his own pain and his own self-interests, was a Holocaust denier who rejected the historical fact of the murder of 6 million Jews. It is not just on the Muslim side or the Arab side that I discover this unwillingness to reach beyond one’s own perspective and to try to walk in the shoes of another person, and see things from another person’s perspective. I certainly see it among my own relatives. Many of you know that I was raised in a Jewish family. One of my close relatives, when we talked about the Middle East screamed at me and said, “You can’t talk with the Palestinians. They’re all animals. They’re just raised to hate. The only thing they understand is fighting and force.” I can tell you that after this all-too-brief tour through the Middle East, I am more convinced than ever that Jesus is the only hope for this world. That the person of Jesus Christ, his ability to convert our hearts and cause us to love people that we find impossible to love, his way of dealing with conflicts, I am more convinced than ever that Jesus and his way of doing life really is the only hope for this divided world of conflict and hatred. To prepare us for Easter, I want to do a little mini-series that I’ve titled “Just Give Me Jesus.” I’ve called today’s talk, “Jesus Our Reconciliation.” Let’s pray. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. The way of reconciliation Five times in these four verses Paul speaks about being reconciled, or reconciliation. What is the apostle Paul taking about by “reconciliation?” What does this word mean? A friend of mine is a pastor in South Africa. His name is Alexander Venter. During the terrible years of South African apartheid, Alexander, along with some other whites in Johannesburg, joined together with some blacks from the township right outside of Johannesburg called Soweto, to form a joint fellowship of whites and blacks that they called “Johweto.” “Johweto” was a visible witness of the reconciling power of Jesus Christ who alone was able to bring blacks and whites together in South Africa across legal, social, and racial divisions that everyone else said were impossible to transcend. But these blacks and whites were committed to the person of Jesus and the way of Jesus.
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Alexander Venter is one of the rare men in our world today that I believe understands reconciliation at a heart level because he put it into practice in and of the world’s most divided situation for the last 25 years. In his wonderful book titled Doing Reconciliation, Alexander defines reconciliation this way: By reconciliation I mean the act and/or process of putting things right between two alienated parties in order to restore relationship, justice, and harmony. This is done by removing the “enmity” or causes of division, and by restoring a “togetherness” of forgiveness, trust and mutual respect. Some have defined reconciliation as “restoring justice.” Because individuals, as well as groups or nations, become alienated, reconciliation has both relational and structural, personal and corporate dimensions. What is reconciliation? Very simply, reconciliation means the restoration of a good relationship between former enemies. Reconciliation = the restoration of a good relationship between former enemies And in order to achieve good relationship between enemies, the cause of their hostility towards one another, the cause of the enmity needs to be removed. Reconciliation means restoring a relationship between a husband and wife who no longer love each other, or are separated from each other, or are considering getting a divorce. Reconciliation means renewing a friendship with someone who hurt you deeply. Reconciliation means reconnecting in a family relationship with a sister, or a brother, who you have been alienated from for years. Reconciliation means peace between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, peace between blacks and whites in America, peace between Jews and Muslims in the Promised Land. Reconciliation begins with God. God is the Author of reconciliation. Here is what we read in 2 Corinthians 5: 2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 2 Corinthians 5:19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
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2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. God is the author of all successful reconciliation efforts whether we’re talking about peace with God, or more peace in a marriage, peace in a family, peace in a workplace, peace with your teenager. The source of relational peace vertically or horizontally is always God. Let’s consider first how we come to have a peaceful relationship with God. Christ did not take the initiative in motivating God the Father to make peace with us. Christ didn’t take the initiative The initiative begins in the heart of God. Some people picture salvation as if portrays Christ wrestled the gift of salvation from the hands of an unwilling Father. In this horrible caricature we find God with a stick ready to beat human beings over the head because of our sin. Christ comes along and says, “No Father! Don’t beat them. Beat me.” But this is an awful distortion of the plan of the salvation. Salvation began in the heart of God, who loves every person in this world. You know the text: For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son. God is grieved over the separation of people from himself. Salvation begins in the broken heart of God, who watches people wander from his good intentions; God our Father wants so much blessing for us and we settle for so little. We go after all of our perverse escapes and addictions believing that in them we find life. But instead, we find a loss of the joy and satisfaction we could have with God. As the prophet Jonah says in Jonah 2:8: Jonah 2:8 (NIV) Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. It was God, who before eternity put together a plan to reconcile us and the rest of this broken world to himself. But not only didn’t Christ take the initiative, it is really important in understanding reconciliation, making peace with God, making peace with each other, that the initiative doesn’t come from us either. We don’t take the initiative
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We have nothing to plead, nothing to offer in making peace with God. As one Anglican Bishop said a century ago: All is of God; the only thing of my very own which I contribute to my redemption is the sin from which I need to be redeemed. We don’t come to God with an offer of peace trying to persuade God to be at peace with us. That is not the way it works. We don’t come to God with our repentance and our faith in an attempt to persuade God to be at peace with us. Our repentance, our confession, our faith is simply our response to God’s offer of a relationship with us. God offers you peace. He holds out a peace treaty to you and says, “Will you accept the terms of my peace treaty. Will you surrender your weapons that you use to defend yourself against me and instead trust me?” Now this is really a different view of God than what is present in many religions. In many religions, people do things to try to persuade God to bless their lives, to not be angry with them, to appease God through a gift of money, or the sacrifice of an animal. But that is not the Christian view. God figured out a way to appease himself and to bless our lives. God initiated a plan to put aside his own anger and wrath towards our sin. You don’t have to try to figure out how to make God happy with you. God has already figured it out. He put a plan together and the plan’s name is Jesus! We just need to receive Jesus. Not just at the beginning of a relationship with God, but as you journey with God. We are always in the position of receiving and responding to God’s continual offer of peace through Jesus Christ. We never initiate a peace treaty. The initiative always comes from God. This is really important. I must drill in here because we sinful human beings do not understand what God has done for us in Christ. Our tendency is always to try to reconcile God to us by showing God how obedient we plan to be; how much we love God; how much we are willing to do for God, rather than seeing God demonstrating his own love for us by acting in Christ to make peace with us. The Good News that we hear in scripture is not how you can get yourself right with God by cleaning up your act. The Good News is God’s declaration that he’s already made you right with Himself. The Gospel does not call us to do something for God so that he might save us. The gospel announces what God has already done to save us. We then are invited us to receive it, and to trust in him. God is the author of reconciliation. And Christ is the agent of reconciliation. Christ is the agent 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 these words:
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2 Corinthians 5:18-19 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. Reconciliation, peace with God, is not something that is an ongoing process. The verb tenses in verses 18-19 are past tense. It says: 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. The work of making peace was finished when Jesus died for sins. Pastors of a prior generation used to talk about the “finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.” Reconciliation was achieved when Christ died. Peace was made there. The only thing we need to do is receive it. How was peace made? The apostle Paul talks about an exchange that took place at the cross in verse 19: 2 Corinthians 5:19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. Negatively, God declined to reckon our sins against us. We deserve to be in debt to God. We deserve to have our sins counted against us. Our consciences regularly tell us that we are guilty before God. We deserve to be condemned, to experience God’s judgment. But the peace that God achieved in Christ means negatively that God does not count our sins against us. God in his mercy does not require us to bear the penalty for our sins. What has he done with our sin? Positively, we read this in verse 21: 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Our sins were reckoned to the sinless Jesus Christ in order that we sinners being united to him might receive as a free gift a standing of righteousness with God. Martin Luther restored to this world an understanding of the good news of the gospel 500 years ago. He wrote this to a man who was troubled by his own sins.
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Learn to know Christ and him crucified; learn to sing and say, “Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You took on you what was mine; yet set on me what was yours. You became what you were not, that I might become what I was not.” There is this amazing exchange that takes place when a person responds to the reconciliation achieved for that person on the cross. Our sin clings to the sinless one, Jesus Christ, and his righteousness clings to us who are sinful. He was stripped that we might be clothed. He was wounded so that we might be healed. He was rejected that we might be accepted. He experienced God’s frown that we might experience God’s smile. He was treated as the worst of sinners so that we might be treated as sinless as the Son of God. He died so we might live. Christ stood in our place so that we could stand in his. When you go to God do you ever feel overwhelming awe and wonder at the exchange that has taken place for you at the cross? Have you ever felt completely overwhelmed and said, “My God, what you have done for me blows my mind. I’m humbled; I’m broken; I’m completely reduced by this great exchange?” Or are you still trying to figure out a way to get God to be on your side. What is our role regarding this gift of reconciliation? We are ambassadors 2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. This is an amazing privilege to speak on behalf of God. The apostle Paul calls himself an ambassador in Ephesians 6:19-20 when he says: Ephesians 6:19-20 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Talk about amazing juxtaposition of identities. Paul is a prisoner. He is physically wearing chains and is bound to a prison guard. Yet even while he is a prisoner, his deeper identity is that he is an ambassador and gets to speak on behalf of God. Let me ask you a question – those of you who believe yourselves to be followers of Christ. Who are you really? Who are you in this world? Can you identify with
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Paul and say: Yes, I’m a mother, but I am also in my family an ambassador for Christ. Yes, I’m a manager, but I’m also in my office an ambassador for Christ. Yes, I’m a student, but I’m also in my classroom an ambassador for Christ. Yes, I’m a nurse, a therapist, a salesperson, but in my hospital, my workplace, in my sphere of influence, I know that I am an ambassador for Christ. I go into my day not acting on my own authority; I know that wherever I am I am representing Christ. What people learn of my Master and Savior is largely going to be determined by what I do, the way I live, the way I function. All of this is not to lay some undue burden on any of us. But there is a reality that people in the world are turned on to Christ, or turned off to Christ by what they observe in Christians. Isn’t it the case, friends, that some of us had difficulty giving a fair hearing to a discussion someone wanted to have about the person of Jesus because of a past negative experience with a Christian or with a church. We are ambassadors representing Christ. We can be good ambassadors, or bad ambassadors. But we are ambassadors. That is the role that we followers of Jesus have. And one of the things we do as ambassadors is to announce and appeal. We announce and appeal 2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. What is the appeal? The apostle Paul lays it out here in verse 20: 2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God has made peace with us at the cross. We don’t have to do anything other than accept the terms of his peace treaty by believing on Christ with all of our hearts and surrendering our lives to him. The terms are really simple – believe! Trust that peace has been won for you at the cross, and surrender! Give yourself to Jesus! Let me ask you a question: Do you as an ambassador for Christ ever find yourself actually making a verbal appeal to anyone in your circle to be reconciled to God? I’m not asking do you try to live a good, moral, decent life; do you try to set a good example for your children, for students, for your clients, or your patients. I’m not asking about your quality of life. I’m asking just a simple question: Have you found yourself making an appeal to someone else in the last
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month, in the last three months, in the last six months have you made an appeal imploring them to be reconciled to God? An ambassador without words is no ambassador at all. An ambassador without an appeal is not an ambassador. What keeps you from making an appeal to people? Do you believe that peace with God is found in Christ? Do you believe that Jesus is the Hope of the world, that people need him, that God’s plan for folks is better than any plan they have for themselves? Do you believe people find eternal life through Christ? Do you believe people’s lives and marriages and families are better through Christ? Is it your conviction that someone can have their sins forgiven and find peace with God through faith in Christ? What needs to happen in your life before you are willing to make an appeal on behalf of Christ? We are ambassadors. Ambassadors not simply by announcing and appealing, but we practice forgiveness. We practice forgiveness If we are going to be ambassadors for Christ, making an appeal regarding reconciliation, the heart of the appeal has to do with the message and practice of forgiveness. You can’t open the Bible without discovering that forgiveness is at the heart of all that Jesus came to accomplish and is a chief way we represent Christ to this divided world. Nothing speaks to our world more about Christ; nothing bears witness to Christ, more than acts of radical forgiveness. A couple of years ago, you almost certainly recall the horrible premeditated shooting of ten Amish girls, five of them fatally, by Charles Carl Roberts, at a one-room schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. This bloody incident ended with Roberts, who apparently intended to sexually assault the girls first, taking his own life when police stormed the building. His horrific violence against such a helpless community shocked America. But what shocked America even more was the Amish community’s response. Within hours they publicly forgave Charles Carl Roberts and expressed loving concern for his widow and three children. In fact, many of the mourners at the murderer Robert’s funeral were Amish who lost their children to his rampage. On the recent Middle East trip that I took, I met a practitioner of radical forgiveness. I had an encounter with a Palestinian Arab name Sami. His grandfather was a follower of Jesus. During the 1948 war that created the State of Israel, the Israelis surrounded the town in which Sami’s grandfather lived. The Israelis required the Palestinians to wear an armband identifying themselves as Palestinians before they walked out of their houses. Well there was a disturbance outside of Sami’s grandfather’s house and he walked out to see what was going on, but he forgot his armband. He was immediately shot and killed by an Israeli sniper.
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Sami’s grandmother was left with nine children to raise on her own as a single mom. The one lesson she repeated to her children over and over again was: Children, we must forgive. We cannot claim to be followers of Christ if we don’t forgive the people who killed your father. We must forgive! Sami was raised with this heritage of radical forgiveness. Sami has started a program on the West Bank of Palestine to teach Palestinians to resist injustice without violence. Sami is a 21st century Martin Luther King, Jr. who has had several thousand Palestinian Arabs go through his school in which he trains people in how to forgive and how to resist injustice through non-violence. Sami said to our group: “If we Palestinians don’t learn how to be reconciled through forgiveness and the practice non-violence, then even if the Israelis withdraw from the West Bank and we get the whole land, we’ll just tear each other apart. We need to learn to practice forgiveness.” Sami understand what it means to be an ambassador of reconciliation in a divided world. Don’t you love stories of radical forgiveness? When I consider what the Amish did, what Sami and his family has done, I’m immediately taken up short by my favorite author, C.S. Lewis. He said something really profound about forgiveness in his classic introduction to the Christian faith that is called Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis said: Forgiveness is a lovely idea until you have someone to forgive. In other words, forgiveness is great in theory. We all love stories of people who are able to forgive their spouse’s killer, or the person who murdered their child. But when you and I have to put forgiveness into practice because there really is someone to forgive that is an entirely different matter. So when you have to forgive your husband who has an affair with your best friend, or you have to forgive your wife who has an affair with your best friend, or you have to forgive a partner who promised to do a business deal with you, but at the last minute reneges because he or she can make a better profit with their money somewhere else, or you need to forgive a friend who betrayed a confidence by sharing your embarrassing secrets with someone who will use the information against you – whenever you have to forgive someone – who is a liar, a cheat, a fraud – someone who for you is a total jerk, I mean really forgive them, you are going to find that it is difficult to put forgiveness into practice. Unless – and here is the big “unless” – you have personally experienced forgiveness from God and reconciliation with God. Remember the initiative and the power comes from God. if you find it hard to forgive, check the power cord attached to your heart. Are you plugged into God? Is the extension cord of your heart plugged into God? It is important to understand a couple of things about forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t deny justice or truth.
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Forgiveness doesn’t deny justice Remember Alexander Venter’s definition of reconciliation. Reconciliation means putting things right between two alienated parties by restoring relationship, justice and harmony. There are women who have been told over the years to forgive their abusing husbands who have regularly and repeatedly punched them and kicked them and violently and continually physically abused them. There are countless conversations involving a pastor and a church member in which a pastor says, “It is your Christian duty to forgive your husband for the years of bruising violence and go back to him.” But you see, all of this is based on a misunderstanding of forgiveness and reconciliation. I can forgive, but reconciliation; I can forgive, but that doesn’t deny justice or truth. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we immediately rehire an embezzling accountant, or put up on stage an adulterous pastor, or send a wife back to her physically abusive husband. We can forgive, but it may be years, it may be never before we are reconciled to a person who stole from us. Before reconciliation takes place, truth and justice must be satisfied. Desmond Tutu, the Anglican Bishop who won the Nobel Peace Prize and who spoke on behalf of so many who were victims of apartheid in South Africa, gave a speech years ago that was titled, “We Forgive You.” Desmond Tutu understood the difference between forgiveness which you can do alone and reconciliation which requires something of the person who offended you. Here is what Tutu said: Forgive, yes! The victims of injustice and oppression must be ever-ready to forgive. But can we come together? That is another question. Those who have wronged us must be ready to make what amends they can…If I have stolen your pen, I can’t really be contrite when I say, “Please forgive me,” if at the same time I still keep your pen. If I am truly repentant, then I will demonstrate this genuine repentance by returning your pen. Then reunion, which is always costly, will happen. It can’t happen just by saying, “Let bygones be bygones.” In spite of forgiveness, there maybe consequences for forgiven sins. The consequences may be an STD, or unplanned pregnancy. The consequence may be getting fired from our jobs, losing trust in a marriage, distance from a friend we love, or crushing debt. The consequence may be that you submit to drug testing every week for a year, or you go to a sexual addict’s group, or an anger management group. Theologians sometimes call consequences for our forgiven sins “disciplinary consequences.” We forgive unconditionally! But to restore relationship through reconciliation there must be truth and justice.
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In the Middle East land will have to be restored. In your marriage unfaithfulness, abuse, addiction will have to be honestly faced and repented of. In business debt must be repaid. In friendship, betrayals of trust must be confessed. Reconciliation is based on justice and truth. And you know, the church is the best place in the world to practice what is the hardest thing for us as human beings – real forgiveness and real reconciliation. Alexander Venter, in his book titled Doing Reconciliation, says: In the apostle Paul’s mind the church, born of the cross, is the most freeing place on earth. It is the safest place for mutual disclosure of prejudice and pain; for healing from racial and other hurts; for repentance and reconciliation; from sins of division; and of acceptance of and love for one another, no matter what our differences or background. And I would add that we in the church have the opportunity to create an alternative community to the rest of the world; a community in which we don’t practice tit for tat, an eye for an eye. A community where we take our relationships seriously enough that we are willing to engage in the process of reconciliation with people who have hurt us instead of walking away from each other, from our marriages and friends, where we don’t have to church hop and shop like the rest of the consumer Christians in 21st century America. Forgiveness and reconciliation is hard work. They require the supernatural power of God and when you see radical forgiveness and surprising reconciliation there is a witness to Christ. We are ambassadors for Christ bringing together people who are alienated from each other and from God. We announce and appeal. We practice forgiveness. And finally, We take up an offering A few weeks ago I did a message about how our church was going to respond to the recession. I said that along with many other things that we’re doing, forming prayer support teams, offering intercessory prayer between services every Sunday morning, job networking events, education about the resources that are available for folks, our food pantry, education about foreclosures, etc. Along with all the things we are doing, we want to take up a special offering to fuel our capacity to assist people in this congregation, who have lost their jobs in this recession. As I’ve been thinking about the special offering that we’re taking next weekend on Palm Sunday, I’ve been impressed again about how the apostle Paul saw that the act of taking up a financial offering for the poor as one of the chief ways that he could accomplish reconciliation in the 1st century church. The Jewish
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Christians in Jerusalem were impoverished by a severe famine that had ravaged the Promised Land. The apostle Paul made it his business to go to the Gentile churches throughout the Mediterranean world in order to supply the needs of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. In this book of 2 Corinthians in which Paul makes such a point about reconciliation, he takes two entire chapters to talk about the offering that he is taking up for the poor in Jerusalem. He saw this offering as a means of breaking down divisions between rich and poor, between Jew and Gentile, between haves and have-nots so that there would be one reconciled church under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, if you are part of this church and you have a job, you are one of the haves. We have dozens and dozens of people in our church who have lost their jobs. We’re not going to be able to supply all of their needs. But I’m going to ask you next week on Palm Sunday, for those of you who can, to make a special offering not in the tens of dollars, or in the hundreds of dollars, but to think in terms of thousands of dollars that we could use to assist the dozens and dozens of families in this church and many people outside this church during this recession. I’m going to ask you to not simply replace your normal giving with this special offering. Don’t just move your money from one pocket to another; don’t take away from your tithe or your missions giving. But in the sight of God give on top of what you would normally give. Pray about being an ambassador of reconciliation by giving sacrificially during next week’s special Palm Sunday offering. As I said earlier, as the result of my recent trip to the Middle East hearing dozens of views of what will bring peace, listening to what business people and politicians and religious leaders said to us, I am more convinced than ever that the person of Jesus and the way that he taught us to live is the world’s only hope for reconciliation and peace. Let’s pray.
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Jesus Our Reconciliation Rich Nathan March 28-29, 2009 Just Give Me Jesus 2 Corinthians 5:18-21
The need for reconciliation
The way of reconciliation A. God is the author 1. Christ didn’t take the initiative 2. We don’t take the initiative
B. Christ is the agent
C. We are ambassadors 1. We announce and appeal 2. We practice forgiveness a. Forgiveness doesn’t deny justice b. Forgiveness is a journey 3. We take up an offering
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