Zimbabwe recently fazed out its hyper-inflated currency. At one point this year 1 U.S. dollar was worth 35 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars. As they phase their currency out and phase in U.S. dollars, citizens of Zimbabwe were receiving $5 for every $175,000,000,000,000,000 Zimbabwe dollars in their account. That is 175 quadrillion with a “Q.”
I don’t know how many denominations of currency there are, or were, in Zimbabwe but I bet there are more divisions within Christianity than there are denominations of bills in Zimbabwe. If there is something to divide over people will jump on it. If there is a doctrine or a practice that can be conceived of it has been divided over. We are often better known for what we are against or what we believe is worthy of dividing over rather than what we are for or rather who we are for. If online conversations are any indication of our problem, it feels like we are as divided today as we have ever been. I hope that is not the case. Division is rampant in this world but it shouldn’t be rampant among Christians.
This is nothing new. Division has existed since the very beginning. Cain and Abel offered differing sacrifices and in one fell swoop, a quarter of the earth’s population was slaughtered over an act of worship to God.
Division existed in Paul’s day as well. There were all sorts of social divisions: divisions of wealth of gender or honor/shame, of slave or free of Jew or Gentile. We don’t think too hard about this because we have never experienced the Jew/Gentile rift but for them it was a big deal to take these two distinct groups and make them one. So these words may not sound radical to us but they are,
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Gal 3:26-28
God is reconciling a very divided world to himself through Jesus Christ. He is taking people from both sides of the tracks and making them one, equal, of the same status and family and household.This is God’s work in the world.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, this was the mystery of the Gospel,
“Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” – Eph 3:2-6
Through the Gospel the whole world is being brought into the family of God. The family lines are no longer drawn around kosher requirements, circumcision or Sabbath…it is drawn around faith in Jesus Christ. This is God’s reconciling work in the cross.
Now this gets even more interested in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21,
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.“
God is not doing this alone…God is calling His people, the church, to participate in radical reconciliation. God invites us, encourages us…even requires us to be a part of that reconciliation process. I believe one of the things the church most needs right now is to be about the work of reconciliation. There is a dire need of reconciliation within individual churches, across churches and even across whole denominations. There is also a need for the world to see the church as the place where the heavy lifting of reconciliation takes place because this is not easy and it doesn’t come naturally to most of us.
This month’s issue of Wineskins is going to deal with reconciliation. This is not about the church becoming like the world in order to make reconciliation that much easier. This is about the church reconciling people to God, starting with ourselves first. My hope and prayer is that this issue will lead some people to have some difficult conversations with those they have hurt and that much good and much glory to God will result from these conversations.