Reconciliation is one of the most important topics of our faith today. It spans everything from big picture issues like racism and salvation to things just as massively significant but as small as healing a single relationship. This is what church is about – a community of the reconciled. This is what mission is about – reconciling lost people with God. This is what so much of what we do as Christians is about, so much so that Paul talks about our ministry in Christ as the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:11-18).
A few years ago I learned a valuable lesson on reconciliation. I heard through the grapevine that a friend of mine was going to lose her job. I wasn’t really supposed to know this was going to happen but I did know. Knowing something you aren’t supposed to know is often as awkward as it is difficult. What do you do if you know something is going to be really, really bad and you feel like you might have a solution to make things turn out better but you know you aren’t supposed to know about it? These are those things you try not to think about but it just plagues your thoughts…you just can’t seem to shake the thought of how poorly this might turn out and whether or not you might be able to be part of a solution.
In spite of my better sense I decided to take a chance. I had a conversation with someone who had control over the hiring and the firing and offered some solutions. The catch was, the person getting let go couldn’t know I was having that conversation on her behalf because it would undermine the whole process of keeping her job. What resulted was her keeping her job contingent on some mediation and counseling with me.
I just mentioned this was a friend of mine but that was going to be short lived. I had become part of the system and the problem to her. I was no longer a friend but an accomplice to those who were set on firing her. What resulted was a loss of trust and a loss of a dear friend.
What was the problem? I could say it was her…she should have been grateful an attempt was being made to save her job. She should have given me the benefit of the doubt! Right? But no, that wasn’t the problem.
I was the problem on several levels. First, I should have never acted on that information. That in and of itself wasn’t the real problem. That action was the symptom of a deeper, underlying problem in how I saw myself. The real problem was that I saw myself as someone who could fix a situation that I shouldn’t have been involved in. I thought too highly of myself. I thought so highly of myself that I was willing to cross the line and step into something that I should have known better. Pride can do that…saying it that way passes the buck. Let’s be accurate – I can do that when I am proud. I honestly thought that without my help that chaos would break out and that bigger problems would be at hand. I thought that if I wasn’t involved in the solution that things would get worse. The truth was my involvement in the situation made things worse. It would have gone on better without me.
It is hard to see that with pride glasses on your face. After a few of these situations the glasses get knocked off enough times you finally start seeing yourself for who you really are so that you can address that issue in your life.
Here is my point – We are not reconcilers. I know that sounds odd because we are charged with the ministry of reconciliation. The ministry is ours to do but the reconciliation is God’s. God is the driver of reconciliation, not us. We are God’s tools…His instruments but at the end of the day it is all His. If reconciliation occurs, it is God who does it and sometimes He sees fit to allow us to be His instrument in the process. Calling ourselves reconcilers is like saying a hammer built a house.
Last, you cannot do the work God calls you to do and do it in a way out of line with Christian character. In this case it was doomed to fail because of how I saw myself. You cannot be a prideful person and be a good instrument in reconciliation. It is like God trying to chisel something with a dull chisel. He will pick a different one, one that is ready and sharp. So if you truly want to be about the work of reconciliation start with understanding that it is God’s work, not ours and that the best way to be useful in this work is to be ready in your heart, mind and soul to allow God to use you as He sees fit.