“A Force of Reconciliation”

A friend of mine named Tim was preaching recently and he said that thanks to what Jesus has done for us through his life, death, and resurrection we are called to be “a force of reconciliation.”

I really like this image.

At first glance it’s an odd juxtaposition.  The word “force” brings to my mind a group of armed people who have a purpose, maybe even a menacing purpose.  And then the word “reconciliation” brings to my mind peacemaking, healing, and restored relationships.  Furthermore, the word “force” also implies something about power and energy, while “reconciliation” seems to imply empathy and soft-heartedness.

But when the words are put in relationship with one another — “a force of reconciliation” — something special happens.  We get a vision of a band of energized and empowered people who have come together for a purpose, namely to help bring fractured relationships back into proper order.

In fact, one of my favorite phrases in the English language is similar to this one in lots of ways.  That saying is “wage peace.”  The two words also seem to fit oddly together but when used alongside one another they have more impact.  “A force of reconciliation” is the same.

So during this Lenten season when millions of followers of Jesus all around the world are considering our need for repentance individually and corporately while reflecting on the amazing work of Jesus, why don’t we also consider being a force of reconciliation?

Think about it: Jesus paid the ultimate price for us so that we might be reconciled and become reconcilers ourselves.  He was obedient to the will of God, even obedient to death on the cross.  And why did he do it?  For us!  And not just for us, but for us so that we might become agents of this same reconciliation we’ve experienced (Romans 5.10-11; 2 Corinthians 5.18-20).

So let’s band together in our Christian communities large and small and become people completely and totally marked by reconciliation in Jesus’ name — reconciliation with other people and reconciliation with God.

Disciplines for Lent Lenten Reflection 2017: #1

Lenten Discipline

I grew up in a Southern Baptist context.  As such, I didn’t even know that Lent existed, much less that Ash Wednesday is the observance that begins Lent.  It wasn’t until I was in seminary more than a decade ago that my wife and I started observing Lent together.  We found great value in connecting with billions of Christians across time and space in being reminded of our mortality and our inadequate morality.

lent

Moreover, my ignorance of Lent was deeper than simply not understanding its history and basic meaning.  One of the key components of Lent, namely, lament, was totally foreign to me.  The churches I was part of did not spend much time lamenting anything.  Though I was young and I may not remember everything well, what I do recall is being rushed through any negative or uncomfortable feelings because “good Christians” didn’t get down about things.  We’re supposed to “let go, and let God.”

But, friends, there is so much in our world to get down about!  Whatever our socio-economic locations may be, our lives are full of pain, distress, and dissatisfaction.  And it’s perfectly acceptable and biblical for us to lament these things.

More importantly, at least in my view, is that in our world there is so much that is lamentable.  Specifically there is so much injustice, oppression, violence, poverty, indifference, etc.  Real people in this world are suffering.  Real people in our neighborhoods are suffering.  And the biblical response to their suffering, at the very least, should be lament.

So during this Lenten season I have chosen to add a discipline to my spiritual formation regimen and to abstain from something as well.  Lament is the addition.  Here’s the tool I’ll be using to help me along: Lenten Lamentations.

(I’ll also be blogging regularly during these 40 days of Lent also.  Woo hoo!)

The thing I’ll be giving up is…

cable news

Reading Online News

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with reading the news online.  It’s helpful to be able to stay on top of what is going on in various corners of the world with the click of a few buttons.

But there is something inherently wrong with the way that I have been consuming online news.  Over the last two or three years I have spent an inordinate amount of time staring at my phone, totally consumed by the latest news stories.  I’ve become convinced that my obsession is proving to be unhealthy for me and may be contributing to me missing the pain and hurt in the very communities where I work, live, and play.

So, during the Lenten season this year I’m abstaining from reading online news.  Here’s what that looks like for me: I won’t click links on Facebook or Twitter, I won’t visit my usual online news haunts, and I won’t share any news on social media.  I will still get some news while listening to the radio in the car or during the morning as my wife and I watch/listen to the local news.  But I’m trying to un-handcuff myself from incessantly trying to stay informed.

But this will only be helpful to me if I then turn my eyes outward to those around me — first to my family (my wife and my two boys), then to my friends, extended family, neighbors, co-workers, etc.  I’m hopeful that God will use this discipline to teach me and to grow me.

In fact, I’m excited to see what God may do in me during this time!

What About You?

Are you observing Lent this year?  What are you doing?  Are you adding a discipline or two?  Are you abstaining from anything?  Why did you choose what you did?  Let me know in the comments below!