Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Reconciliation Reconsidered

Yesterday, at the end of a very long day, I said, "On Sunday, Pastor talked about Christ coming to reconcile us to God.  Today is one of those days when I remember that reconciliation is hard work--and I'm not doing it on such a large scale."

I don't really want to unpack my pastor's idea this morning--it's a little too close to troubling aspects of atonement theology, with which I don't agree.  I think that Jesus died on the cross not to save us from our sins, but because he was a threat to the established social order, and crucifixion was the punishment for people who posed that threat to Empire.  Enough of that unpacking.

But the idea of reconciliation appeals to me.  I agree with theologians like Marcus Borg who says that Jesus came to show us what is possible for a human life.  And reconciliation is one of our chief tasks.

I like the passage from 2 Corinthians 5:18, where Paul uses the term "ministry of reconciliation."  But I often forget how hard it is.

At work, we've had all sorts of glitchiness with our new attendance policy, but the biggest stumbling blocks have revolved around language.  You'd think, as someone with a Ph.D. in English, I wouldn't be so surprised by this state of affairs, but I am.  I've had teachers who want to argue about what it means to "approve" of a student's appeal and students who want to argue about whether or not they should have to appeal at all--in the word appeal, they hear a guilty verdict.

I doubt that Paul had my work activities in mind when he wrote about a ministry of reconciliation, but in so many ways, that's what I've been doing.  I've been trying to reconcile teachers to errant students, trying to reconcile students to the work that must be done, trying to reconcile the forms to the humans on the ground, trying to reconcile computers to us all.  I know that I risk sounding like I'm mocking Paul's idea, but I'm not.

I'm also struck by how many people, at their cores, do not believe in the possibility of redemption.  I've had more than one person say, "We know how this is going to turn out." 

But no, no we do not.  We know that past behavior is a predictor of future behavior--but it's a predictor, not a life sentence.

Would I be as optimistic about the possibility for human change if I didn't have my Christian beliefs and practices as part of my core, as shaper of my sensibilities?  

It's hard to say--I'd likely have been an optimist regardless.  But it would be harder, without that weekly reminder that redemption is possible, and often in the most unlikely ways. 

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