Are you concerned about harmony within the church? Many of us are. How then can we be reconciled with our brothers and sisters in our congregations? What is the ministry of reconciliation that 2 Corinthians 5:18b talks about: “Christ . . . gave us the ministry of reconciliation”? After reading this text, I asked myself, Am I actively involved as an ambassador for Christ in the ministry of reconciliation? What does that look like within the church?
So I researched the words reconciliation and reconcile. Let’s look at a couple of definitions.
Reconciliation: “a change from enmity to friendship. It is mutual, i.e., it is a change wrought in both parties who have been at enmity” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).
Reconcile: “to restore to friendship or harmony” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
These definitions help us better understand what Scripture teaches. Romans 5:10, 11 tells us that we have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son and that through our Lord Jesus Christ, we have received reconciliation — restored to friendship with God. If we are reconciled to God through Christ, wouldn’t God desire us to restore harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ? As new creations, we should have a new attitude toward each other — forsaking animosity and harsh judgment and embracing friendship and harmony — reconciliation.
What does this reconciliation look like? Consider Ephesians 4:1-6:
Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
Paul also instructs us to speak “the truth in love” and that each one of us is joined together to create one “body for the building up of itself in love” (vv. 15, 16).
How we love and treat one another is of much importance to our Father. It creates unity with our brethren: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
Reconciliation is made possible by showing kindness to each other. Ephesians 2:7 describes God’s reconciling work as His “grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” If we are to be like Him, then we need to act toward each other in kindness that makes for peace, rather than in anger that makes for hostility: “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups [uncircumcised and circumcised] into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (v. 14). While this scripture discusses engrafting Gentiles as part of the people of God, it may also indicate how peace is made among the brethren.
How do we practice the ministry of reconciliation and bring to our church a state of harmony? In her article “Eight Ways to Pursue the Ministry of Reconciliation,” Denise Loock shares insights that I have adapted for our fellowship within the church.
Evangelize. Simply share the good news, the message of God’s reconciliation wherever you can. And remind others in the church body of God’s truth.
Refuse to be divisive. Share God’s peace and kindness, online or face-to-face.
Be generous. Remember that God owns everything anyway. Share the resources God has given with those who are needy in your congregation.
Listen to others. Before responding in anger, try to listen. Find a point of convergence.
Be grateful. Send notes of thanks to those who need an encouraging word in your congregation. Has God placed someone in your life as a blessing? Let them know!
Be hospitable. Share your meals with fellow believers. Also share experiences that point back to God.
Glorify God in all things. No matter what talent someone compliments you on, point back to God’s work in your life.
Seek Scripture. Ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit to produce the appropriate fruit so that you can be a minister of reconciliation. Love, peace, and kindness are part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23).
Contemplate these eight points when working toward harmony in the church body. This can include former members of your congregation who seek to return. It can be frightening if they sense they will not be accepted back with open arms.
Think of these eight points of kindness when your brothers and sisters in Christ have brokenness in their lives. Many carry their wounds silently. Pray for wisdom and love in dealing with them, rather than saying something negative. They may need to repent of wrongdoing, but it takes love, peacemaking, and kindness from others to help many of us get there. Pray for God to open your eyes to see where one of your brothers or sisters is hurting.
We all have a responsibility to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world. But we also have a responsibility to show love, peace, and kindness to our brothers and sisters in Christ. This ministry of reconciliation is the way back to harmony. May God help us lead the way!