Tuesday, September 12, 2006

In Search of Reconciliation

Susan, I hope you (and the others who read this blog) do not think I was ragging on you because of your commitment to reconciliation. I also hold reconciliation in high regard. Because “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Godself” and we have been “given this ministry of reconciliation,” I believe it is an unavoidable imperative for Christians.

It is precisely because I hold reconciliation in such high regard that I feel forced into my conclusion. Biblical reconciliation is not peaceful co-existence, apathetic tolerance, or mutual disregard. (Unfortunately, it seems that this is what people often mean when they call for “reconciliation.”) True reconciliation is a foundational practice of the Christian community we call the church and is an unending activity.

The practice of reconciliation begins with conviction—mine not yours. It moves through confession and forgiveness to changed behavior. Without this there can be no reconciliation. It is self-righteousness, if not sacrilege, to claim to be “bridge builders” when we have no intention to build bridges among ourselves.

I confess that I see none of these. Perhaps I am blind. Perhaps I am jaded. Perhaps I am moving in the wrong circles and looking in the wrong places. Perhaps 10 years is too long to be engaged in such a struggle at this level of intensity. Perhaps the best thing I can do for the cause of reconciliation is to walk away myself.

For a long time I thought we could at least find a place where most of us could continue to live together; and live in the hope that God might yet do a redemptive, reconciling work among us. I had no delusion about it being difficult and costly. Still, I didn’t hold back anything in that struggle. Time and again I witnessed crusaders on both sides of the issue undermine and sabotage progress. Pleas were disregarded or twisted into someone’s ideological weapon. Neither side is clean on this. Neither side is the innocent victim. I have all but given up my dream of community in my lifetime. And I think church without community is an abomination. God calls us to community, not autonomy. Father, forgive me, for I have sinned.

Even now people ask me “Is ABC going to split?” Have they not seen? Have they not heard? The ABC has split and is continuing to splinter. (I wonder how they define “split.”) The departure of those almost exclusively on one extreme will not result in reconciliation among the remnant. It will leave a self-congratulatory cadre with the superficial trappings of community (Scott Peck’s “pseudo-community”). But underneath the veneer will remain bitterness, the loss of an important corrective, the loss of resources, and, most of all, the crippling fact that we did not learn how to deal with polarities in a Christ-honoring way. Our lament should go beyond rhetoric. It should involve sackcloth and ashes.

As I read this, I know it sounds like I am arguing with you, Susan. But I am not. I am begging you. What does reconciliation look like for you? Where do you see it happening?