Monday, September 8, 2014

The Church is the reconciled people of God

The Chicago “L” is one of those really interesting environments which to someone who loves people watching, like me is just extremely fascinating and sometimes quite entertaining.  It's one of those environments where you see people who are totally different from one another kind of forced together. You might for example see a lawyer in their 3 piece suit sat next to a homeless guy who is just riding the train back and forth end to end. Or you might see an elderly grandmother next to someone with all kinds of piercings, blue dyed hair and tear drop tattoos around the eyes.
The 'L' is a place where people you would never put together find themselves in one another’s world if only between stations. Of course it is also a place where most people try to ignore the others around them as much as they possibly can.  But from time to time even people from what appear to be two different worlds come together around a common interest, a conversation about the Bears, a sweatshirt that leads to the discovery that they both graduated from the same school or something else that leads to a fast friendship that lasts for the next 5 minutes.

Most of the time, most of us spend our lives around those who look like us, sound like us and enjoy the same sorts of things that we do.  Different is, well different!  Different takes work.  And often, whether intentionally or unintentionally, different usually divides us.

But the Church of Jesus Christ is utterly unique. The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of people from every tribe and tongue and nation, The Church of Jesus Christ is the body of people who have a new identity in Jesus, who have a real and dynamic relationship with God and who are at peace with one another.
At least, that is who we are called to be, that is how, by the work Spirit of God within us, we are increasingly called to live. In a greater way than any other group of people on the face of the earth the Church of Jesus Christ is to be diverse, beautiful and united.
You see, Jesus loves the Church and He has reconciled us to God and to one another.

In Ephesians 2:11-22 The Apostle Paul talks about this reconciliation to God and to one another that we have through Jesus Christ.  He explains that before knowing Christ we were alienated from God and from one another (v11-12).  But then he goes on to explain that in Christ we have now been reconciled to God and to one another (v13-22).
  • By the blood of Jesus we have peace with God.
  • By the blood of Jesus the dividing wall of hostility between people is broken down.
  • By the blood of Jesus we as believers are joined together in this incredible thing called the Church.  We have equal access to God, and together in unity through the Spirit we get to show His glory to a watching world.
We have been reconciled to God and to one another, and we have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5.) that through us an unbelieving world which is without hope might see the power of Christ. What is more, we have been given a new identity, once we were strangers and aliens – now we are citizens and members of the household of God. So, who we are in Christ now is the defining identity of our life. Everything else must take a back seat to it.
Yes there are cultural distinctions, yes there are different languages, yes there are diverse preferences and experiences and backgrounds. These all testify to the creativity of God. But, our culture, our language, our preference, our experience, our background is not what gives definition to our life. In Christ we are a new creation. In Him we have a new identity a new citizenship. We are not Americans or Hondurans, We are not English or Mexican, We are not Polish or Guatemalan, and we are not black or white.  Through faith in Christ we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

We are now brothers and sisters in Christ, joined by one Spirit, therefore we must show mutual care for one another and rejoice with one another, grieve with one another and live in unity with one another. We must show love, respect, fellowship and partnership with one another. That means intentional engagement with other believers even and perhaps especially those who look or sound different than us.  We must engage one another as believers, especially those who we consider different than ourselves, with humility, not comparison or superiority and with repentance over the attitudes and actions that we have allowed to divide us.

A world that is alienated from God and alienated from one another desperately need to see that through Christ there is hope, through Christ there is peace, and in Him there is reconciliation. The Church is utterly glorious, the Church is utterly unique: It is the Church that gets to display the power of Jesus Christ to a world that desperately needs to know Him.
Jesus loves His Church, He has reconciled us to God and to one another – let us put this ministry of reconciliation on display for all to see!

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