"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18).
Have you ever thought of yourself as an agent of reconciliation?
One reason many of us are reluctant to embrace that ministry is that it is all about conflict, tension, alienation, and the distance between people.
For me, that hits close to home. Some members of my immediate family no longer speak to each other. Perhaps you too know parents who have become alienated from one or more of their children, or children who feel painfully disconnected from their parents. In our congregations we have seen families ripped apart over church conflict. And the current political polarization has caused many people to drift apart to the point where they can no longer be in the same room together.
It is tempting to think things will get fixed by trying harder, by bringing in experts, or by throwing money at the problem. I doubt there’s a magic formula to make everything better. But that is not to say there isn’t something mysterious available to us: the power of listening. What if the ministry of reconciliation is all about listening? Perhaps it’s about listening in such a way that the story of the broken relationship is allowed to rise to the surface and is seen again, but perhaps in a new light.
This might not happen the first time we sit down together, perhaps not even until much later. But there’s power in showing genuine interest in the other person’s story without giving any advice, without trying to try to fix the situation.
A posture like that is possible only when we realize that it is God who is in charge, and that God does not need me or my intervention to make things happen. With that understanding, we’re free to say, “I have come to hear your story. And I can be with you long enough, and quiet enough, for you to dare to go down into the deeper places where the pain resides, where questions lurk for which there are no answers.”
It helps to have experienced conflict and alienation in your own life, perhaps long ago, perhaps only recently. We receive the ministry of reconciliation when we personally experience healing in what once was a broken relationship.
Our job as agents of reconciliation is not to explain in great detail how reconciliation snuck up on us. Rather, our job is to be so quiet that reconciliation can sneak up on your friend as well—in God’s due time, in God’s way. By God’s power. By the Holy Spirit.