We live in a deeply broken world. Even today in the news, German chancellor Angela Merkel announced that multiculturalism has utterly failed in Germany. Europeans are deeply worried about millions of immigrants that the state depends upon for cheap labor but who are not being assimilated into European society. Instead they are creating growing and influential enclaves within Europe. There are fears that Europe is slipping into a new tribalism. There are also predictions of a new ethno nationalism as a global trend.
Today’s story could not have been better timed, because today at the Lausanne Congress III here in Cape Town we began with an exposition of Ephesians 2 which highlights the gospel as good news of reconciliation in Christ.
Let me back up, yesterday we began with a study of Ephesians 1 and focused on the importance of truth in a radically pluralistic world. It was heartening to see the Lausanne Committee choose this as the opening keynote theme with a clear affirmation of truth, of the truth of God’s Word, and of the truth incarnate—Jesus Christ. Today’s sessions began with the reminder that truth is not just a reservoir for the mind, and a source of joy for the heart, but it is to be put into service. The ministry of reconciliation is one very important way to put into practice the gospel of reconciliation.
Our broken world desperately needs the gospel. Today’s news was a reminder that we cannot achieve a multicultural society on human strength alone. On our own we are failing. But in Christ, God is building a new community, calling a people out from all of the ethnicities of the earth. This community is bonded together through the blood of Jesus Christ. As Ephesians 2 says, “He is our peace.” Jesus makes peace possible through reconciling us to the Father through his cross. By his cross he breaks down the dividing wall of hostility between peoples to create a new humanity. This is the grounds upon which he can proclaim peace. It is no different with the church. This is how he creates a reconciled community. What is more, God’s work in the church is the beginning of a cosmic plan to bring all things together in Christ. Until its consummation, he calls us to proclaim and demonstrate his reconciling peace to our broken world.
We spent much time hearing stories of the world’s brokenness. Through speakers like Joseph D’souza, Pranitha Timothy, and Christine MacMillan we heard testimonies about “the silent apartheid system” in India where millions of Dalits end up becoming multigenerational slaves. We were reminded by International Justice Mission that the sale of human beings is the second largest black market in the world today, with an estimated 27 million modern slaves. There were South African testimonies to the racial difficulties of life in “the new South Africa.” We heard repeated testimony of the genocidal wars stemming from tribal hatred in central Africa. Messianic Jews and Christian Palestinians spoke of the impossible hostilities in the Middle East apart from Christ. We heard testimony to the sexual slavery of Cambodian brothels, and of the devastation caused by HIV AIDS. Today was not meant to be an easy day, one speaker said. God invited us to look into the wounds of our world.
But amidst all of these testimonies we were reminded of the power of the cross of Jesus which does what no human remedy can do. It breaks down the barriers caused by human sin.
In the gospel we learn not only of Jesus our sin bearer, and Jesus the one who bears our pain, but of the Christ who does a new work of reconciliation in a broken world and brings peace.
We were admonished that Christians are often blind to our own gospel. That is, we know what God has objectively done in Christ. But we fail to work out the implications of this for the way we live, the way we treat each other. This was vividly brought out by the Rawandan who told us that the tribal genocide there took place in a nation that was 90% Christian. How could this be? he asked.
At our table today, I talked to Chinese Christians who described the tensions and broken relationships between the registered and unregistered churches. I talked to an African woman from the Ivory Coast who spoke about ethnic breakdowns in her country which currently threaten civil war. I listened to an Ethiopian brother who spoke of the ethnic tensions between Somalia and his own country. An American brother even spoke of the leadership pride that too often results in brokenness in the church and Christian ministries.
How can the church be an agent of reconciliation if we do not apply the gospel we love to the way that we live? During the day we were asked to identify the conflicts in our lives. The best way to do that is by looking at those areas of woundedness that keep emerging. Once we do that we must preach the gospel to ourselves and apply to the brokenness before us. As we do this, and as our leaders embody this, then God will use us in a whole new way to become powerful ministers of his reconciling peace in our communities.
The call then was—let gospel reconciliation become a lifestyle, not just a verbal presentation. The lingering question was—“Lord, how can I be an agent of reconciliation when I return home?” The prayer was—Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.