April 30, 2015 / David Fitch

Making Space in the Neighborhood For Reconciliation: Matt 18:15-20 as a Way of Life

On Facebook this morning I wrote:

The default modus operandi of Americans when working for racial reconciliation is to work for change in the government systems that mediate justice. We look to change laws, the racial composition of police forces, or school systems, etc. etc. All of this has its place. But the first move of the church is to open space for presence, where people come together face to face, listen, confess their sins, make things right, discern the future. In these local spaces of presence Jesus promises to be present. Here what is bound on earth is bound in heaven. Here the Kingdom authority of heaven bursts in and disrupts the antagonisms and violence of our day. It is the prolepsis of the Kingdom of God. From here laws can be changed, governments changed, and a new world begun.

The basis for this mode of operating is grounded in the discipline of reconciliation as given to us by Christ in Matt 18:15-20. It is the face to face encounter where under the Lordship of Christ, we gather in his name, submit to Him and one another. We seek not to win an argument, we do not even seek to mete out who’s right and who’s wrong. We start with ourselves. We seek confession of sin. We seek making things right. We seek reconciliation, forgiveness and a way to move forward. The goal is agreement about where do we go from here: binding and loosing. And when we do reach agreement, what is bound on earth is bound in heaven, and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven.” The very authority of His Reign is released from the seat of His authority. 

I believe when Paul argues in 1 Cor 6 that the Corinthians should NOT go to courts but work out their everyday (“ordinary matters” vs. 6) disputes among themselves under Christ Lordship, that this practice of reconciliation was not just for internal church matters. It was to be practiced as everyday life.

I believe when Jesus put “Blessed are the peacemakers” right before “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake” and Blessed are you when people revile you” (Matt 5:9-11), he was implying we carry these same reconciliation practices of the church into the world in the midst of hostile conditions.

This practice then, of gathering people who are at strife against each other into the space of His Lordship, forgiveness, reconciliation and renewal, is more than something we do on Sundays before the Lord’s Table. It is a way of life. We offer it as something God is doing. We offer it as a space to be opened where people gather, listen, forgive, release ego. It is the extension of the church into the world of 2 Cor 5:18-19. Ultimately it is only possible in Christ. It shall not always be received. It shall not always happen amidst a large protest march. Sometimes It shall happen in a back yard, at a barbecue, over food., It will often be refused. Nonetheless, where it is recieved, God’s Kingdom in Christ breaks in, His rule takes shape among us. And the gospel goes forth.

You see these kind of episodes happening already., There were some that happened in Baltimore. There were many reported in Ferguson.  These places bring great changes. From these places, we can work together for great change in police departments, legal systems, governmental systems, because a ground swell has already born witness and great fruit. Here we begin a change that is more than surface. Here the church witnesses to Christ and His Kingdom in ways hard to deny.  

What do you think? Has your church experienced these spaces of reconciliation in your neighborhoods?