The Gospel message is that through his Incarnation, ministry, death on the cross, and resurrection, Jesus Christ has secured and begun the process of reconciliation. He reconciles us to God, us to each other, and us to our own selves. These vertical, horizontal, and internal healings progress together; they must, this is a theological commitment.
What this reconciliation looks like is justice, ethical treatment of all people and situations. What this reconciliation feels like is love, an ever deepening affection toward God, toward everyone around us, toward ourselves. (Only by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit can we truly come to love ourselves.)
Leadership is one aspect of our life together as people being reconciled in each of these three directions. True leaders in the church are nothing more or less than those who have gone some way forward in this experience of triple reconciliation and are thus able to assist the Holy Spirit in the Spirit’s single quest of helping people begin and carry on this life-long process. True church leaders also attend to various logistical matters but always carry out those tasks in service to this overarching work of triple reconciliation.
When we lose sight of reconciliation as our one true work and calling, we cease serving the Spirit’s mission and wind up undoing the work of reconciliation and fighting against the Spirit. Sadly, this is the most apt description for much that passes off as ministry. But the Gospel still beckons us into life and wholeness. The story of our Christ still invites to come and die to sin and self be resurrected to new life for Christ, for each other, for our truest selves.
A useful litmus test for church leaders: how does ___________ contribute to reconciling the people we serve to God, to each other, to themselves? If we can’t provide an adequate, specific answer, then ___________ may be either a waste of time/energy/resources, or worse, it might even be harmful to the Spirit’s mission. When we can provide a good answer, we can be more confident that what we’re doing is actually kingdom work.
3 thoughts on “reconciliation litmus test”
Looking forward to interacting at Metanoia. I would be interesting in knowing how you see a fourth possibility: reconciliing us to the creation…or perhaps you include that in one of the other categories. Or do you feel it is a waste and/or harmful to consider this as ministry?
I do regard creation care as ministry and included in the root of all our callings, as the first commissioning God gave to humans. And to be clear, I don’t regard these as possibilities separable from each other. These grow together in us. Salvation as wholeness has been a Vineyard value from the beginning. I didn’t think of it when I wrote this but consistency requires me to affirm this as another form the litmus test can take. Since we know that social justice and creation care are deeply related (those living closest to the earth suffer first and foremost when we sin against creation), we must include this or we’ll fail at the whole. How can we love God whom we haven’t seen if we don’t love our neighbor whom we have seen. How can we love our neighbor if we’ve destroyed his land and sources of sustenance?
Thanks for your reply Michael. I agree and I really appreciate your comment about those who live closest to the earth. I see that our Indigenous friends can help us on that journey as we find humility to truly invite them to teach us and there can be great Kingdom restoration in all the overlapping spheres as a result. I find that some amount of what goes on in “creation care” does not actually honour Creator as King of His Kingdom and thus does not further this Kingdom…but this does not give us an “out” to neglect or deny our calling. Grace to you.
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