Therefore, if anyone [ is ] in Christ, [ he is ] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things [ are ] of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. ( II Corinthians 5:17-19 )
Therefore may not be the greatest place to begin, but we have to start somewhere, and I would probably run into copyright difficulties and space problems, if I tried to quote more. Please; read the context, and judge for yourself, whether or not I am wresting it.
The quote above, I believe, stands firmly on its own, and is fairly self-explanatory. In the first century, and due to the ministry of God's own Son; Paul, in particular, but the people of God, in general, were given, after the Christ ascended to the Father, and to His former glory; the continued mission, through ministry, the responsibility of broadcasting the good news of the Kingdom. The Church today, the Body of Christ, has been entrusted, as stewards, the very same mission today. We have failed miserably, in many areas, and for far too long. I am not speaking of the institutional church, although that too shares in the blame, but in focus here are individual ( please don't get me wrong: I believe that we are all one corporate Body, in Christ ) members of that Body, the Church, for which the Christ died ( Ephesians 5:22-25 ). There are certain individual members of the Body, and even those who have not yet truly reconciled with God, who live according to the law of love, the ministry of reconciliation, doing what is required of us, in actively receiving and reflecting the love that God showed us ( John 3:16 ), but for the most part, the Church, whether because of purposeful ignorance, or through of mis-interpretation of Scripture, has, I believe, failed, in large, to truly broadcast the message of the good news of God's Kingdom!
I believe that it is 'high time' for us, who claim the name of Christ, to begin, if we have failed in the past, to do that which God has called us to; the ministry of reconciliation. As above; though it is One corporate Body of Christ; insofar as it is made up of individuals, we, as individual members of that Body, must take up the gauntlet, and begin to share in our ministry, not only with those we deem outside the Body, but with those as well who share membership with us in the family of God. This would include not only those that we may not see outside of a 'church' setting, but of immediate family as well, husbands, wives, and children. ( I must, at this point, interject here, that I have failed in many areas, to follow this ministry; I am not trying to excuse myself, just to point out that I am not superior to anyone else in my 'walk' )
As having been recruited, turned around in the most glorious way, being startled by a brilliant light from heaven, by God Himself, speaking to our Lord, face to face, if you will; Paul was entrusted with a bit different mission, being born into the transition between the Old and New Covenant economies. His mission, though he may have chosen not to accept it at first, was to continue the Christ's ministry of reconciliation, in further breaking down the middle wall of separation ( Ephesians 2:14 ), smoothing the transition between the exclusivity of Judaism and the inclusivity of the Body of Christ. In today's Church, and thus most glaringly in the institutional church, we face much the same problem, though, as I have written of previously, in that many of us have failed to realize the true mission of the Church, which is not divide, but to bring together, to reconcile. Maybe one issue that keeps us apart is that a good understanding of what it means to be reconciled, or to reconcile, is lacking.
Reconciliation; what is it?
Dictionary.com defines reconciliation, first, as 'an act of reconciling or the state of being reconciled', and secondly, as 'the process of making consistent or compatible'. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines it as, firstly, 'the action of reconciling : the state of being reconciled', and, interestingly enough, secondly, as 'the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance'. When we get down to the root though, it becomes a bit clearer; using the resource above, the number one definition given involves restoration, and secondarily 'to make consistent or congruous' ( reconcile an ideal with reality ). Merriam-Webster's also defines the verb 'reconcile' as 'to cause to submit to or accept something unpleasant'. My other source also defines this term in much the same words, though in a different order.Though I reject the notion given by Merriam-Webster's, that 'reconciliation' involves 'the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance'; I agree with the other definitions, as I believe the Bible, or Scriptures, does as well. Our ministry, our mission, though glorious, is not always pleasant: we are often rejected, even to the point of blood-shed, real or imagined, and sometimes our ministry brings us into contact with the less-than desirable ( again; real or imagined ) of the world.
And he showed me a pure[a] river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
I have striven to show, as I believe, that the very next half of the quote above, from Revelation 22 revealed that the people of God are called to be 'healing leaves', 'the leaves of the tree' that are, not just were, 'for the healing of the nations'. Although this book remains a mystery to many who scan its pages; I believe that much of the language is repetitious, to emphasize the point He is making; for instance, the 'tree of life' in verse 2 can be equated with 'river of water of life' in verse 1. As members of the Body of Christ, which I alluded to previously; we are called to take an active part in this ministry, not only to the 'world' around us, but to the corporate Body of Christ in which we have been placed.
This should be very sobering to us, realizing the responsibility that has been placed upon our feeble shoulders. Again; please don't get me wrong: I'm not advocating walking around with long faces, or trying to say that a Christian should never relax or have fun, only that he, or she, should take this responsibility seriously, treating the situations that God has placed before them with the gravity they deserve ( this goes for the people too ). As I hinted at earlier; I have failed miserably in my own 'ministry', and it remains to be seen, whether or not things will work out the way that I think they should ( God knows ), but regardless our acceptance of this mission, and whether we believe we're up to the challenge; this is the ministry that God has given to His people, for which He has also given us the strength and authority! Let us do His will, with the Strength He has given us!
Prayerfully and humbly,
Charles Haddon Shank