The Grief and Joy of Reconciliation
Reconciliation is more than diversity or inclusion. It encompasses more than understanding, accommodating, or even supporting.
It certainly includes these things, but to limit our thinking on this issue to these concepts, does it an injustice.
Reconciliation is restoration.
It is difficult and it involves both grief and joy.
If we can begin to comprehend the heart of reconciliation and, more importantly, the only true means of reconciliation, we can move forward on a God-glorifying, Gospel-centered path towards it.
Reconciliation can take on many forms. The restoration of a failing marriage, the return of a wayward child, or the healing of a fragile friendship. But today, I want to focus on the current important issue that is consuming our nation and must be addressed… that of racial reconciliation.
Who am I to address the issue of reconciliation?
I am a white woman. I can’t change that, nor do I desire to as that is exactly who God created me to be. I recognize that my human perspective comes from that of a white woman. However, being a white woman is not my primary identity. Just like being a wife, a mother, a doctor, a friend, a daughter, an American, a southerner, or any of the other labels that I wear don't serve as my true identity.
Who I am above everything else is a child of God. My identity is in Christ. I am fully known by God (1 Corinthians 8:3, Jeremiah 1:5)). In spite of that, I have been accepted by him (Romans 15:7, 1 Peter 2:9). And now I am adopted by Him (Ephesians 1:5).
Because of this identity, I can weep with my sisters and brothers who weep (Romans 12:15) and I can mourn a fallen world (Romans 8:22). And because of this identity, I can confidently say that I know the only answer to the problem we face today. The answer that is rooted in the reconciliation that has greater significance than any other. And that answer is Christ.
The most important reconciliation.
As important as it is to be reconciled with each other, and trust me, I am not belittling this need at all because it is biblical (Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 18:21-22, Colossians 3:13-14), there is a reconciliation that is even more critical. And that is our reconciliation with a Holy God through Jesus.
You were born sinful. So was I. And so was every cute and adorable baby on Facebook (Ephesians 2:3, Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12).
God, in contrast, is utterly holy (Luke 1:49, James 1:13, Exodus 15:11, 1 Samuel 2:2).
That chasm between our sin and His holiness is beyond anything we can traverse alone.
We have no way to stand before a righteous God on our own merits.
Which makes me forever grateful for these two words:
They are two of the most beautiful words in the Bible. Let me show you why.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
As much as I have wept over the past few days, and weeks, and months, this passage and more specifically, those two little words, make me weep even more. But for a completely different reason.
Because they change EVERYTHING.
God sent His son. He lived a perfect life I could not. He died a terrible death I deserved. He took my wretched sin. And He gave me His glorious righteousness.
I did nothing. He did it all. BUT GOD.
And because of this, I am reconciled to a holy God. And it’s not just for me that this was done! If you trust in the work that was done on the cross, YOU will be reconciled with your Creator as well. Regardless of your color or race or nationality or profession or socioeconomic state or past pain or past privilege. You can’t do it. BUT GOD can.
What does this mean for us now?
We are called to love each other as God loved us. (1 Peter 4:8, John 15:12, Mark 12:31)
How can we truly restore relationships if we don’t understand that “BUT GOD” love? And how can we NOT love all of God’s people if we do understand it?
Repent to God. Accept his grace. Be reconciled to Him. Then start doing the work of pointing others to Him as well.
Let’s talk about practical steps we can take during this tense moment in history. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but maybe it will be a catalyst for other ideas.
- Consider your words. Don’t post on social media just because you feel like you need to. Regardless of your race. And if you feel lead to speak out publicly on sensitive topics, don’t post without thinking and praying about what you are saying. Social media posts (or these kinds of articles, for that matter) will not save people. Only God can do that. They can, however, incite others to anger, hurt and they can point people away from the cross of Christ if done carelessly. Speak in love always and glorify God in all you do.
- Along these same lines, delete your social media apps from your phone if you need to. I am a pediatrician and I have had to give this advice to many teenagers recently due to the pandemic and now the racial tensions that are so prominent. The young mind is not fully developed and is affected more deeply by what they see and hear than a more mature brain. If I (as a mature brained person) struggle with the anxiety that comes from too much input from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and the 24-hour news cycle, I KNOW precious children, teens, and young adults are struggling more.
- Talk to your kids and your family about the issues of reconciliation. If you have not addressed racial issues in your home, do it now. Be age-appropriate, find faithful resources, and address it with a Gospel-centered grace.
- Reach out to those in your personal circle who you feel may be hurting over this, especially those in your local church. Be the church now more than ever. Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Listen as they speak. Respond in grace.
- Support the right causes. Be careful to avoid getting sucked into supporting causes that are directly opposed to the Gospel. There are many out there. Instead, look to those that are, and have been, doing the work of the Kingdom across the world. Many God-centered organizations and churches strive to support people of color with the backdrop of pointing them to Christ, recognizing that He is their only true source of rescue. Some have suffered financially from the recent pandemic. Turn your attention to those.
- Read your Bible. Seek the guidance of the Word. Do not pick up your phone before you pick up the Word of God (yes, I’m preaching to myself here now). You’ve heard it said that you need to educate yourself concerning these important issues. Listen to trusted voices, yes, but listen to the voice of God first.
- Pray. This may sound trite, but it is probably the most important thing to do right now. Pray for your sisters and brothers who are black, white, and every color in between. Pray for the leaders of our nation, state, and city. Pray for police and civil authority… pray for those who truly desire to serve and protect… and pray for those whose hearts are hardened. Pray for your babies as they grow and learn. Pray for your racist friends and acquaintances. Pray for pastors to lead our churches well. Pray for peace. Pray for God’s mercy.
This list is not all-inclusive. But it’s a start.
The grief and the joy of reconciliation
The title of this article is the grief and joy of reconciliation because healing involves both. My experiences as a physician, and your experiences in life, have told you this.
The beautiful news, however, is that with true restoration, the joy far outweighs the grief.
To remove an infection, you sometimes must undergo a painful procedure.
To fight cancer, you have to kill good cells with the bad.
To grow a family, you must endure the pain of childbirth before you enjoy the bliss of motherhood.
To lose weight, you must sacrifice your desires for unhealthy eating and laziness.
To restore a relationship, you must compromise, admit your own sins, and have grace for others
To come to Christ, you must die to self. (Luke 9:23-24)
And in each of these examples, the reward far outweighs the sacrifice. In fact, Paul addresses this when he says in 2 Corinthians 4:17 “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. And just in case we look to Paul and think his afflictions cannot possibly be as heavy as ours, let's recall a partial list of his sufferings.
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
2 Corinthians 11:24-28
Paul's afflictions were not light at all… except when compared to his eventual joy.
This is what we must remember as we navigate this unprecedented time.
God is calling us to reconciliation. With Him first and then with His people.
And the grief we bear as we do this will be but a shadow when His glory is made known to us.
Have mercy on us, Lord. Remind us of these truths, Lord. And be with us on our journeys.
Below is a free Scripture reading, writing, and prayer guide you are welcome to use as a springboard for prayer and study. It includes several passages of Scripture related to reconciliation with God and others, written prayers based on the passages and room to journal. I encourage you to add your own verses to it as you read. And know I am praying for you.
God bless you,
First and foremost I am a child of the Most High God, secondly I am a minister wife and thirdly I am a black woman. I appreciate your prayers for the situation that is going on today. People need to realize that, color will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. I pray for people to have peace and that they get to know our God. It saddens me that people are willing to die for that cause. Until people ask God for forgiveness and turn from their wicked ways, God will not heal them.
Thank you, Joyce, for taking the time to reply. I have been praying in particular for the pastors in our nation and especially for those who lead communities that are hurting the most. God bless you and your husband as you faithfully serve God’s people. I pray that He uses you in mighty ways to lift up the Gospel above all else in the coming days.
You are welcome, Tina.