So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:16-19
One of the longstanding conversations I am involved in attempts to keep a variety of men’s ministry leaders connected. We meet as often as monthly and as little as annually. Some are local church pastors, some lead regional or national organizations, some are writers and speakers.
We represent the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, United Methodists, Presbyterians, Quakers, and a couple more. Conference calls have included as many as six in one conversation, and some of us talk one-on-one when bigger meetings fail to materialize.
Yesterday (Monday evening) four of us spent 90-minutes in a Zoom room, catching up and sharing stories. We were in Richmond, Chesapeake, Columbus, and Wake Forest.
Our conversation naturally turned to what we are doing, as leaders, to facilitate a deeper sense of community. Because, as we all agreed, even angry people are tired of conflict, and if we are to be any kind of disciples at all then we must be in the business of inviting other human beings into community. We were created for relationship and we are called to the ministry of reconciliation.
Remember that, “[God] has trusted us with this message of reconciliation” (v. 19).
It was a good meeting. It checked all the boxes: Friendship. Support. Encouragement. Inspiration. Accountability. Prayer.
Then Ray – who essentially organizes these get-togethers – shot me the following text.
“It was great to see and hear you tonight! Great catching up and good discussion! Loved it! I just had an interesting observation… I think you and Greg have switched roles! I sensed a level of progressive urgency with you that I’ve not seen before. I mean, you’ve always been an optimist but I sense an awareness in your demeanor. Am I right? I sense not necessarily an epiphany but… again, I think awareness… yes, I think that best describes what I heard from you this evening. Life-charged… Hmmm where’ve I heard that?”– Ray Gryder
Okay, so there’s an interesting phrase: “Progressive urgency…”
I don’t see that as a political idea so much as an observation of where my sense of personal mission is leading me.
Here’s the thing: I am turning 65 in March. There is no question of retirement, because I haven’t “worked a job” in years so much as responded to God’s insistent calling to live in the light, and to use whatever gifts I have to invite others into this story of love and promise.
But Ray may be right inasmuch as my sense of urgency has upped a notch or two. The social-political climate we live in – the religious too – has seen a noticeable up-tick in what I would call the opposite of reconciliation. Let’s put it this way: Our social dynamic is both dysfunctional and toxic; if ever there was any urgency to be in the reconciliation business then it is now.
Dangerous tipping point:
So yes, Ray, there is probably a little extra urgency to the way I present my passion for following Jesus. I do have this sense of “time running out.” But it’s not my time! Fact is I feel as well-equipped as ever and maybe more so! No, it’s how much time we have as a nation before we reach a tipping point we absolutely must avoid.
You see, I don’t think so many people want this break-down in community as the media hype would have us believe. Controversy sells and (I know this as a media insider) it is often perpetuated by those who benefit from all the noise.
We must lead by doing!
But people need leadership. And this is where the ministry of reconciliation comes in.
- We must lead by doing.
- We must encourage one another to live in love and to practice kindness.
- We must take God seriously at God’s word.
- We must – as Ray pointed out – live a life-charged response.
- We must live like we mean it – because God certainly meant something (and anticipated something) when God first gave us this good word.