Bowing Low: The Message of ReconciliationSep 10, 2017 05:31AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
Knock, knock, knock. Send her an email.
Really, God, we’ve been through this for years. I get the idea, I ask if it’s time, and You say, “Not yet.”
And so it was, that still, small voice telling me what I already knew He would want me to do: I needed to reconcile with someone I had hurt and been wounded by—three years ago. Outcome didn’t matter. A response from the other party wasn’t the point. It was about who I am in Christ. If I truly am reconciled to God through His Son the Christ, then I must be a reconciler. There isn’t any gray area there.
Consider what the Apostle Paul says in one of his letters to the Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21, ESV
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Paul makes it very clear that when God made us a new creation, He “gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
It’s not a choice or an option, really. Once we are new creations, it’s part of the deal.
And let’s be honest: That is wicked uncomfortable in theory, but God is with us (Immanuel) in practice. When it was time, after three years of healing and asking God to confirm it, it was as natural as sliding on my flip-flops.
Why is that?
Because we are His new creation. His ambassadors. He makes His appeal through us. That’s a whole lot of His in those verses.
See what I mean? It’s not us doing the reconciling. We’re merely the vessels. So it stands to reason that when we finally step out to obey, the Holy Spirit takes over, and God’s work is done through us.
The hardest part is that first act toward Kingdom matters, the one we all resist, talk ourselves out of, debate, and justify not doing so frequently: bowing low.
Before I acted on what I felt God wanted me to do and because in the past I felt like I didn’t have peace about the timing, I followed these steps:
- I reviewed it with what I know to be true in the Word of God.
- I prayed and asked for confirmation.
- I ran it by the godly counsel of a few friends. They had some suggestions about adding more grace—always a good thing.
The best part was that after I sent it, I had the sense that God had healed me enough that I was no longer emotionally dependent on the answer. I knew the reply may or may not be discouraging, but it did not hold me captive.
It also wasn’t about getting back that which had been lost: the relationship or the connections made along the way. I wasn’t trying to prove myself, rebuild my pride, gain esteem in this person’s eyes, or punish them in any way. That is how I knew it was Kingdom work and not Bonnie work. My heart rediscovered the love that had been buried deep beneath disillusionment, disappointment, misunderstanding, anger, and sadness. When I bowed low, God encouraged me to bow lower, and in the bowing, His love came through and did reconciling work.
Some folks may confuse the message of reconciliation we carry as Christians as a way to get our conscience off the hook, but that’s not the motivation. The goal is to reflect Christ’s reconciliation of us to God in how we treat others. Only then do they understand better His plan for the world, for individuals, for His new creation. In so doing, we, too, are able to comprehend one tiny piece of what Christ did for us.
Nursing a grudge blocks the way for this statement to be true in our lives: “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
When we live in the reality of the new that Christ bought us with His own body, we are reconcilers and ambassadors, “not counting their trespasses against them” because Christ no longer counts our trespasses against us.
In Paul’s letter the order is spelled out clearly: “Be reconciled to God…so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” When we extend ourselves and bow lower, carrying out the ministry of reconciliation, it performs Kingdom work not only in the heart of the one we offer it to but within us as well, purifying and sanctifying us until God completes His work in us.
Philippians 1:6, ESV
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
The response to my email was favorable, While we aren’t exactly headed out for tea right now and may or may not ever interact on any regular basis again, peace was spoken from both directions, and peace was received. Grace given. Mercy extended. Love made its way through. Understanding was found.
Is there anyone in your life that needs to hear the message of reconciliation from you?
I can’t promise a happy ending. We can’t move other people’s hearts. But we can live as new creations, letting God “make His appeal” to others through us. I am quite sure there are more folks on my list for whom He will call me out of my old flesh to represent Him as I live out reconciliation. Will I answer the call?
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.