God has called us to conciliate the world.
Yesterday, the word of the day from the Merriam Webster email was “conciliate.” As Merriam Webster define this word, it means “to make compatible,” “to reconcile,” “to appease,” “to win over,” or “to become or try to become friendly or agreeable.”
Aspects of conciliate are similar to reconciliation, which St. Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (English Standard Version): “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation."
Paul is explaining to the Corinthians why he seeks to persuade others of the truth of the gospel. The immediate context of the above test is 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Paul is encouraging us to seek to persuade others. This means we need to cultivate relationships with others, especially those who we consider enemies of ours in the culture wars. Persuasion involves reasoning, respect, courtesy, and “Let [ting] your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person,” as Paul instructs us in Colossians 4:6.
In our hyperpolarized politics of today, conciliation is almost a dirty word. Unfortunately, many Christians are much more concerned with alienating others rather than seeking their reconciliation to God the Father and His Kingdom. The culture wars are important, true, but it should not supplant the importance of winning souls. The gospel as preached by Jesus is one of invitation. It is true that Jesus spoke harshly of the Pharisees, but he did so because many of the Pharisees had hardened their hearts against those who could not or would not conform to their harsh and difficult codes. Theirs was not a ministry of invitation, or reconciliation, but a ministry of exclusion. The gospel seeks to include, not exclude, although when one rejects Jesus’ invitation, exclusion does take place. But this is due to the individual’s rejection, not in the invitation’s intent.
How, then, does the word “conciliate” relate to the gospel? First of all, what is the gospel, the good news? In the teachings of Jesus, it is more than just the forgiveness of sins. In St. John’s Gospel, it is receiving of Jesus as to who He is, the Second Person of the Trinity who was, is and is with God, and is God Himself (John 1:1-12). He took on human form, the form of a servant, and died on the cross for our sins, and is now exalted above all others (Philippians 2). Jesus teaches us that through the forgiveness of our sins and through accepting Him as to who He was, is, and will be, we are qualified to accept his invitation into His kingdom (Colossians 1:12). He woos us. He wins us over. He overwhelms us with his grace. And in the process, He makes us His disciples.
The process of discipleship makes our image “compatible” with His image. We become more and more like Him, while maintaining the best of our own personhood. We, who were once His enemies, have been reconciled to Him, and He know calls us “friend.”
We as Christians need to recapture our mission of conciliation and reconciliation. We need to lovingly pray for those whom we know are lost. We need to gently reason with them, love them, and listen to them. We need to ask that the Holy Spirit will convict them. If they do accept Jesus’ out stretched hand, He will change their minds and hearts when it comes to which side they are on regarding the culture wars.