I have been loving my study with Taylor Seminary so far. I am currently finishing off one subject (Christian Worldview), and neck deep in three others (Church history since reformation, Integral Mission and Ephesians). I am fascinated how four subjects that are ostensibly so diverse seem to correlate so deeply.
I had thought that I had a good grasp on the book of Ephesians… turns out I had as much of a clue about the book as I do about ice hockey… not a lot.
I love that a central theme of Ephesians is the diverse church united through Christ. I’ve been remembering a conference I was at in Australia where an elderly catholic states-person challenged the conference with the words: “The miracle we are to become, is the miracle of reconciliation.” At the time I thought it was a nice sentiment, but now I think I am glimpsing just how profoundly true those words are. Passages like the one below are taking on a new level of meaning for me.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Eph 2:14-18)
I think part of the reason all of this stuff is hitting me so deeply is that I have been in a place over the last three years where the profound difficulty in living out these sentiments has been sharply in focus.
I’m loving my reading for Integral mission, and today I was reading the chapter about the church’s response to conflict and violence. I was hit by the following couple of paragraphs in Andrew Kirk’s What is Mission?:
Repentance is a central theme in the Christian faith. Without it new relationships are not possible. In political contexts it is extremely problematical, not lest because it is a very personal decision of the will. Repentance is not remorse or shame: it is more than feeling regret for a situation that has gone badly wrong. It includes, but goes beyond, a public apology. True repentance involves admitting the truth of the accusations laid against one, one’s responsibility in doing wrong, a deep sorrow for the hurt that has been caused, the giving of compensation or restitution where appropriate and the resolution not to return to the same behaviour again. Reconciliation happens when the repentance is accepted by the grieved party (in many ways, if not most, conflicts wrongs have been committed by both sides) and forgiveness offered.
In many ways repentance is beyond the natural capacities of human beings. Most of us are prone to defend our innocence, excuse our shortcomings and justify our evil deeds to such an extent that we are incapable of facing the real truth about ourselves. Perhaps we are only pushed to it when we have nowhere else to go – i.e. when we can no longer hide from the facts of our guilt, either because we know that others know, or, more significantly, because we recognise that God knows. It is a hard path to take, and if we are right to believe that repentance and forgiveness are preconditions for reconciliation which is itself a precondition for peace, then peace is no soft option.
As I live with both the truth of our call to reconciliation, and the profound cost that call asks of us, I am both grateful for God’s grace that loves me despite my failures and also for my experiences of people willing to face the challenge and cost of repentance and forgiveness that produces reconciliation and peace.