At Gateway Church in Austin, we are finished up our series called Voices.
This past Sunday at Gateway South, Jon Eng shared a message about justice and reconciliation.
Here is the audio from Jon’s message:
Here are notes from Jon’s message:
In 2 Corinthians, Paul encounters tensions within the communities he helped to start. And in the midst of conflict, he writes about reconciliation.
His vision sounds amazing. And a little bit fluffy, if we’re being honest.
When we look at our lives, reconciliation can feel more like a pipe dream.
But for Paul, reconciliation is much more than vision. It’s something he lives out.
In another letter to a different church in Ephesus, Paul focuses on reconciling among different people groups. Jewish and Gentile Christians are arguing with each other. You can almost hear the text screaming, “Gentile lives matter!” “No – Jewish lives matter!”
What’s your default in conflict? When the threads of your relationship come undone, what do you do?
Option 1: Wear the Broken Sweater. Some of us yearn for reconciliation, but we forget the need for justice. This is like wearing a broken, tattered sweater as if there’s nothing wrong with it.
- Are you willing to include justice when you reconcile? What does that look like in your marriage, in your friendships, in your business relationships?
Option 2: Toss the Sweater. In silence, we sometimes choose to remain on the sidelines. We don’t want to get involved, so we ignore the problem. This is like tossing the sweater in the trash can – choosing not to engage with the brokenness around us.
- Sometimes we need distance from a toxic situation or relationship, but God’s call for us still remains.
- MLK writes: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.
Option 3: Tug at the Damaged Sweater. Sometimes, we aim for justice without reconciliation. We could care less who gets trampled along the way. As long as those who are ignorant or abusing their power are put in their place. This is like tugging at a sweater, resulting in even more harm.
- We cry out for justice, but in doing so, we demonize the other. We forgot that that God has called us to love our enemies.
What’s Paul’s answer?
In 2 Corinthians 5:16, Paul writes: From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.
We’re not broken pieces of clothing. We’re not sweaters.
We’re the body of Christ.
This is Paul’s answer!
Ephesians 2:14-16: For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
We are the body of Christ. We, the church, are a reconciled people who are always working out Christ’s reconciliation and justice among ourselves. The dividing walls have fallen, and in Christ, all of us are seen, are celebrated and are known.
What does it mean that Christ makes us into one? That Christ has broken down the dividing wall?
4 A’s to Reconciliation and Justice
ACCEPTANCE: you and I belong to each other (Ubuntu)
God has created each of us different.
Without each other, we’re less than our true selves.
With each other, we become more of who God intends us to be.
This takes work!
We assume this to be true in our marriages and friendships. Can we expect it to be any different in our communities?
- Desmond Tutu: Ubuntu means “my humanity is bound up in yours.”
- Do you see and accept the image of God in others?
AWARENESS: our sovereign foundations matter.
Our social and historical locations are important to God.
We live in a country where communities of color have historically been subject to unjust laws and practices.
- Until 2013, Austin was, for a time, the largest city in America that didn’t have district representation. Crazy right? It took awareness from people – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike – to change that reality to better reflect our changing city’s population.
Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil – “I cannot say that I love people if I don’t care about the policies that negatively affect them.”
- Are we awake to those realities?
In Christ’s body, we are united. But unity doesn’t mean uniformity. Our differences aren’t ignored.
In Scripture, we see the disciples acknowledging power structures and recognizing differences among them. For the early church in Acts, when inequities are pointed out, they’re investigated. Stories are heard. And as realities are unearthed, wrongs are acknowledged. Systems are changed.
- Gentile Christians pointed out that their widows were being overlooked. This brought about acknowledgement that lead to systemic change.
What does that look like in our lives? In our spaces?
- If someone says, “I don’t know what will happen to my insurance. Can you pray for me?” Rather than saying, “That’s political – let’s move on.” Maybe we choose to be like Jesus. Even if we might have a different political opinion about health insurance, we still choose to listen, serve, and love.
ADVOCACY: Commitment to Justice and Reconciliation
There are things in our world that should not be.
- Broken relationships.
- Racism and Racial Injustice.
- Sex-trafficking of children, women and men.
- Unsafe spaces in our communities – LGBTQ youth are 4x more likely to experience suicidal ideation and depression in churches.
Our churches should be havens for all.
- At Gateway, this is our vision. We haven’t figured it all out, but we’re on a journey of learning about what this looks like more and more.
- Are you willing to learn your way forward to reconciliation and justice? Will you join in?
- As people of God, we’ve got a responsibility to call out violence and injustice. When it shows up in our neighborhoods, we can’t stay quiet.
Come as you are people are committed to these 4 A’s: Acceptance, Awareness, Acknowledgment, Advocacy.
Whether you’re the offender, the offended or a bystander, Christ calls us to pursue peace with one another. God calls you to wake up. To stop hitting snooze.
The path won’t be easy. But in Christ, we’re called to pursue reconciliation. We’re called to pursue justice. Hand in hand. Together.