In a previous article, I discussed how Christ reconciles us to God and to his people, across seemingly unsurmountable boundaries of animosity and hostility (Ephesians 2:14). The first Adam sinned and the resultant curse alienated all humanity from God. But the second Adam, Jesus Christ, reconciles us to God (Romans 5:11). Through his death and resurrection he does not only bring us back to God, he also brings us to one another. He stands as the head of a new humanity, which is no longer under the curse and therefore no longer bound to conflict with each other and God. The gospel is both a message of and means to glorious reconciliation.
Whatever previously divided us should not be more significant than what we share in Christ.
God’s people, that is, those who through faith enjoy peace with God, can now image God as Adam was meant to. We are redeemed to resemble God, albeit imperfectly. Therefore whatever previously divided us should not be more significant than what we share in Christ. Below I unpack the implications of God’s work of reconciliation through the gospel, especially how it ought to make Christians ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). This is much needed in my own country and throughout our continent, where many communities are locked in hate-filled conflict with others.
Gospel Reconciliation in the Church
Christians must prize and pursue unity. Not only with those like them but with everyone. Of course, we cannot claim to be peacemakers in the world if we are involved in conflict within the Christian community. That is not only hypocritical, it also diminishes Christ’s glory in the local church.
Christians must prize and pursue unity. Not only with those like them but with everyone.
Consider Paul and Peter. Both were Jews, yet Peter refused to share table fellowship with Gentiles (Galatians 2:12). Paul rebuked Peter, for his actions were out of step with the gospel (Galatians 2:14). The gospel makes people one in Christ. It undoes previous animosity, resolving tension and conflict. For in Christ there is no more Jew or Gentile (Galatians 3:28). Why build a new wall of hostility or repair the old one when Christ broke it down? Therefore tribalism, ethnic hatred, and racism have no place among Christians.
God Calls Us to be Peacemakers
We should not preach one thing and show the world something else entirely. I believe that in Ethiopia today the church has a clear calling and task. Surrounded by hatred and animosity, we essentially have two choices. We can identify ourselves within the story of our ethnic group, uniting in hostility against others. That is, we can unite around hatred despite being reconciled in love. Or we can embody Christ by loving our enemies. Despite differences and deep division, countless reasons for conflict, we can pursue peace.
We can unite around hatred, or we can embody Christ by loving our enemies.
The church must choose the second. We must live in accord with and witness to the fact that God works towards reconciliation. He does this between humanity and himself, and on earth between warring humans. Christians must not only preach the gospel but show what it can do.
Pray for Your Neighbours (and Enemies)
As we prioritise and pursue peace, let us commit ourselves to prayer. Let’s pray that God will bring people to himself and his Church through the gospel message of reconciliation. Again, this should not be limited to those who are like us, part of our broader communities. It ought to include those belonging to groups we previously hated. In fact, it will mean praying for heralds and perpetrators of genocide. As Jesus said, “Pray for those who persecute you, that you may be the sons of your father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44).
This should not be limited to those who are like us. It ought to include those belonging to groups we previously hated.
Jesus calls us to resemble our heavenly Father, by loving our enemies. Belonging to Christ will mean reaching over the walls of hostility, beyond ethnic boundaries of hatred. This is precisely what Jesus practised in his earthly ministry. For example, in John 4 he lovingly addresses a Samaritan woman. But we know that historically Jews and Samaritans loathed one another. Like Jesus we must see past whatever divides us. Being able to pray for our enemies is usually a sure sign that we are learning to love them.
Love the Hurting
Finally, let’s spread Kingdom love to those who are suffering. At present, the whole of Ethiopia is in turmoil and strife. War creates many victims. Therefore we must speak up for the voiceless and downtrodden, regardless of their ethnicity. It is the Christian Church’s task to love sacrificially, whoever we come across in the road (Luke 10:37). So we must speak against injustice, not only when it is against us or our tribe.
Let us extend our hands like the good Samaritan who loved his neighbour across ethnic boundaries.
Whichever side of the story we are in, let us extend our hands like the good Samaritan who loved his neighbour across ethnic boundaries of enmity. Do not forget that Jesus died for his enemies, which include you and me (Romans 5:6-8). Therefore we ought to be those who are concerned for the wellbeing of our ‘enemies’.
Live Out Gospel Reconciliation
As people reconciled to God and one another in the Church, we must shine the light of reconciliation in a world darkened by animosity and hate. This glorifies God. For he does not take sides, Instead, he desires peace. Thus we can show what the gospel has done for us, not only in word but also through deeds and in prayer. This will only make our proclamation of Christ more persuasive.