It was a warm, sunny day in Mali, West Africa.
I’d jumped at the chance to lead a missions work team to the local artisan market to shop for souvenirs before their departure.
We headed to one of my favorite sections with wooden carvings and other cultural gems. I was immediately greeted in French by a shopkeeper. When my team decided on their purchases, the shopkeeper quoted a ridiculous tourist price, his response curt and full of animosity. He made it known, in no uncertain terms, that he would never sell anything to the French, who had taken advantage of his country, for a fair price.
I was taken aback. He’d clearly assumed my nationality based on hurts from his past and the color of my skin. So, I switched from French to his heart language of Bambara.
“Sir, I think you have it wrong. I am not French. I am American and have lived here for 18 years. My parents & grandparents have lived in your country for many years as well. We love your people and your country. I am sorry for how the French treated your people. It was not right.”
Surprised, his demeanor and tone began to soften. I reassured him we shared a common hope for his people, and we were supporting his community through building schools, medical clinics, and literacy programs. After discussing the beautiful people in his country, which I considered home, we agreed on a fair price and off we went with our carved wooden treasures.
As I look back on that moment, I am reminded that reconciliation isn’t just a one-time event that is wrapped up in a tidy bow. The continuum of reconciliation is ongoing. It requires us to understand the past and properly assess the situation in front of us. This step of obedience will lay a foundation of empathy and trust, paving the way for us to make connections with the messiness of this world.
Our message is full of hope because of Jesus, and our world needs all the hope it can get. Reconciliation requires us to find a commonality with the person next to us and use that as a connection point before we launch into the heart of the matter.
Just as with my shopkeeper friend, it can often involve some uncomfortable moments where emotions run high. I wasn’t able to fix the hurt in his heart from the French people, but I was able to remind him there are people who DO care and want to help. For all of us, this conversation can serve as a helpful reminder that jumping to conclusions can lead to judgment. Instead of judgment, reconciliation involves communication and asking questions.
Why do we engage in this messy work of reconciliation?
2 Corinthians 5:18-21 urges,
“Everything is from God, who has reconciled Himself to us through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making His appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.’ He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Because the blood of Jesus has reconciled our separation from God and secured a right relationship for us with the Father, we are now tasked with sharing this message with the world.
Notice Scripture doesn’t say, “If you want, you can be part of the ministry of reconciliation.”
No, Scripture states, “He gave us this ministry.”
God’s commission implies action on our part. (Matthew 18:21-35)
If we truly want to embrace the way of Jesus,
then we are called to step into the lifelong work of reconciliation.
Often, we think of reconciliation as a single, turning-point moment, and while it can certainly be that, I’d challenge us to see small opportunities to pursue reconciliation in everyday situations. They are like stepping stones, leading people to know Jesus and the forgiveness and hope He offers. (Mark 2:1-12) Each stepping stone is key in building trust as we encounter the world.
When we offer our kindness in the grocery store to a Muslim woman who is wearing her hijab and speaking another language, we are reflecting the kindness and grace Jesus has shown us.
When we build a friendship with our coworker and demonstrate that we can listen without jumping to a rash conclusion, we model the way Jesus listened and truly cared.
These seemingly mundane moments walk people closer to reconciliation with a God who loves them and desperately wants them to know Him.
Questions for reflection…*What assumptions have you made about people? How might you stop yourself from making those same assumptions in the future?
*How can you engage with someone who is different from you, to show them you are listening?
*How can you reflect the message of hope in the messy parts of your day?
Prayer is central to our ministry as believers in Jesus as we carry eachother’s burdens and intercede for one another. Our team is honored to share the work of praying alongside you!
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