United in Christ by the Spirit | Spirit-Filled Church Life Group Series 3/6
I recently read an article online called, Portraits of Reconciliation, and I was blown away! It is a set of photographs (like the one above – (c) Pieter Hugo) that document the ongoing work of a charity called AMI in southern Rwanda. Here’s the description:
“The people who agreed to be photographed are part of a continuing national effort toward reconciliation and worked closely with AMI (Association Modeste et Innocent), a nonprofit organisation. In AMI’s program, small groups of Hutus and Tutsis are counselled over many months, culminating in the perpetrator’s formal request for forgiveness. If forgiveness is granted by the survivor, the perpetrator and his family and friends typically bring a basket of offerings, usually food and sorghum or banana beer. The accord is sealed with song and dance.”
The reconciliation on show is no small fry, playground affair; it involves story after story of children forgiving their parents’ killers and widows being at peace with men guilty of abducting their families and burning down their houses.
I then had to Google the difference between Hutus and Tutsis and discovered it is a class war. In basic terms that I can understand: “it stems from class warfare, with the Tutsis perceived to have greater wealth and social status” (thanks, in part, to Belgian colonialists).
Ever since the fall of mankind, the greatest cause of all war and strife has simply been people being different from other people. Whether it is by race, class, gender, wealth, religion or anything else, we will always find something to judge others by. Even if you see yourself as a ‘very accepting person’, I wonder how you feel towards ‘intolerant people’? Our lives are like never-ending building projects, opening doors to certain people and constructing walls to keep others out.
“If I had one wish it would be for world peace” is probably the most common answer I’ve heard in response to the genie-magic lantern question. But the irony here is that despite being well-wishers on the surface and wanting worldwide peace, we are all totally incapable of having it in our own lives. We are either unsatisfied with the situation we’re in and envy others for theirs, or we are proud of our status and look down upon those of lower standing.
A further irony is that the modern church is far more famous for its war than its peace. Whether it’s the denominational fallouts or the silly bickering and grudge- holding that goes on, we as Christians are just as guilty of ‘disturbing the peace’!
The problem is that despite our best intentions (or not) we’re all part of a war machine, which stomps onwards waving white flags whilst trampling on those around us. What we need is not to kiss-and-make-up or to simply shake someone’s hand; we need to become part of a completely different machine. A machine that at its core and its foundation is peaceful, that cannot do anything but bring peace into situations, a machine that breaks down walls and opens doors wherever it goes.
God doesn’t simply provide us with a new manual, explaining how to resolve conflict. He offers us a person who is the resolution to that conflict. He doesn’t just give us a way to live that allows humans with differences to get along, He births us into a new humanity where there are no differences to fight over. And He doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves as citizens of a new kingdom, but he lives amongst us and in us, by His Spirit, drawing those who once were so far away from one another, closer than earthly brothers and sisters.
By being in Christ we are not just reconciled to God, but we are also reconciled to God’s people. And by the Holy Spirit’s power dwelling within us there is no war or conflict, either personally or corporately that cannot be resolved. Through coming back to the cross and seeing all ‘walls of hostility’ crucified in Jesus, we can know for sure that by God’s promise The Church can be the most powerful presence of peace this world has ever known.
Are you at peace?