“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
Real and lasting peace amid our current national political climate, marked with divisions and recriminations, seems impossible to attain. I am sure that many people feel that peace, reconciliation and unity are worthy efforts, but are ultimately doomed to fail given the state of our political discourse.
I recognize how my passionate beliefs about the issues that affect us can also become a source for divisions and tension with those with whom I disagree. We must all admit that we are all passionate about something—issues that affect our communities, the nation, the world. I don’t pretend to be an objective spectator on issues such as immigration, affirmative action, women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, abortion and taxes (just to mention a few hot-button issues). Yes, I have opinions on all of them. Just ask my colleagues and parishioners, who will give you an earful about it.
Albeit, as an ELCA pastor I am called to model, for the sake of peace and unity within the church, a way in which love and not hate drives dialogue between me and my parishioners.
This way of life is not reserved for clergy alone. All of us in our baptism are called to be ambassadors of reconciliation, which was obtained for us by Christ on the cross. Or as Paul wrote: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).
Paul reminded the Corinthian community that as people who have been reconciled with God, they were also called to live out and spread that reconciliation as representatives of Jesus Christ. We, like the members of the Corinthian church, are ambassadors for Christ.
An ambassador of reconciliation is supposed to say something when violence, hatred, divisions and intolerance seems to have the upper hand.
As ambassadors of Christ we have been entrusted this ministry of reconciliation in order to engage others with the gifts of the Spirit—faith, love and hope. We are sent in faith because we are sent by Christ, the one in whom we trust. We are sent in love because God’s will and intention with the world is for it to experience the selfless love of Christ, God’s ambassador of mercy. Finally, we are sent in hope because our own efforts alone won’t bring needed reconciliation. Nevertheless, the agency and mediation of the Spirit is present in the lives of those who have been reconciled to God, each other and the world.
While we debate about politics, policy and even church doctrine and practice, let us not forget God’s call to reconciliation. An ambassador of reconciliation is supposed to say something when violence, hatred, divisions and intolerance seem to have the upper hand. Can we be ambassadors for Christ when bigotry is the norm? The answer is yes, with God’s help.
The message that we have been entrusted as Christian ambassadors of reconciliation is the unconditional love of God for all people. Therefore, as we communicate this message and engage the world’s hatred as well as our own, we will experience both the divine demand to cease in our efforts to alienate the other and the divine love accepting us as we are—imperfect yet precious in the eyes of God.
A minister of reconciliation brings the whole word of God, demand and promise. The ethical demand is not the last word, but a reminder that God’s intention for the world is for it to be a place of peace, unity and love. The promise is the that, regardless of our shortcomings, divisions and failures, God has reconciled creation to God.
Thus, make your appeal to others in the name of Christ, knowing that only Christ is absolute. You, me and our ideas are not absolute and free of imperfections—only Christ is. May God, who has reconciled us to each other and the world, lead us to the cross, the ultimate place of reconciliation.