“Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; “ St. Paul to the Corinthians
St. Paul writes of reconciliation and reconciliation can be a tall order. As we are seeing in these days of ongoing social tension, in a real sense the demand for justice is not necessarily a call for reconciliation. Far from it. You may receive justice and be satisfied that the scales of the law have been rightly balanced, even a bit in your favor. But receiving justice may be nothing more than the bitter satisfaction of deep resentment receiving “An eye for an eye.” The law must have it’s payday.
As long as righteous indignation demands justice in our relations with one another we may well receive justice in some measure of law but the actualization of reconciliation, let alone forgiveness, will remain forever elusive. This, it seems to me, is the closed system in which the world is trapped. The public demand for justice has only one tool at its disposal; the law. And law can only impose a form of justice on social relations. It can do nothing to transform the human heart.
When the French revolutionaries gained traction and were able to impose their democratic vision on monarchical France, the result was not a people reconciled to one another in a more just form of social contract. The result was The Terror and a million deaths. Reconciliation and forgiveness were not a part of the discussion.
Grand, sweeping statements like protests might call attention to the need for justice but they can do virtually nothing to bring persons into reconciled, friendly relations. As often as not, the public anger stimulated by such events serves to harden the battle lines of self-righteousness, resentment and defensiveness. Movements may help to blow off cultural steam but they do not reconcile persons. Persons are reconciled to one another through the humanizing gestures of reconciliation and forgiveness.
The world will continue to take to the streets when the obvious dysfunctions between people become too much for society to bear. And in doing so society may achieve a modicum of justice, but only under the arm twisting of the law. Legislation may rearrange police departments, social service agencies and so forth. These maneuvers may satisfy some and even have a pacifying effect on some communities. Others will be embittered and alienated. But what of reconciliation and forgiveness, the engines that actually make healthy human relations possible?
We cannot rely upon the repudiators in the streets to achieve this, no matter how justifiable their cause appears to be. For the current spirit of the repudiation culture only identifies people through the lens of their tribe, their group, their label. But we can be labeled in any number of ways. And who is to say which of them is defining? This is their game; to control the definitions of who we are. But some of us refuse to play.
Human relations are a labyrinth of complex offenses, injustices, great and small, that must be addressed and resolved in millions upon millions of ways every day. You and I have been both victim and perpetrator in these mini-injustices. Grand causes aside, none of our hands are clean when it comes to being unjust.
This means that the actual business of transforming persons toward open, friendly, reconciled relations with their neighbors mainly proceeds in the normal functioning of ordinary life among family, friends, business associates and neighbors who relate to one another not through labels but as persons.
So dear neighbor, whoever you are and wherever you are reading this, I urge you to reject the negativity and cynicism of the identity provocateurs, whose aim is only to divide, and actually dare to see those around you as individuals, as persons created by God, for whom Jesus Christ died, whose lives depend, as yours does, on the genuine understanding, reconciliation and forgiveness that actually heals our wounds and restores us to one another.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in
Christ Jesus our Lord.”