Friday, May 16, 2008

Reconciliation as both gift and work

This week I was at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. This was my first visit to Duke, and it's a beautiful campus, with woods and gardens throughout the university. I was there for a gathering hosted by the Duke Center for Reconciliation. InterVarsity Press is partnering with the Center for a series of small books called Resources for Reconciliation. The first two books in the series release this fall; Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing by Center codirectors Chris Rice and Emmanuel Katongole, and Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness by theologian Stanley Hauerwas and L’Arche founder Jean Vanier.

The vision of the Center is to be a resource for the church in bringing healing and reconciliation to areas of brokenness, whether that’s division across ethnic/racial lines or global conflicts or whatnot. So they convened this gathering to connect leaders from churches, parachurch organizations and the academy, folks who are doing work in racial reconciliation, social justice, urban ministry, community development, disability ministry and the like. Some of the attendees had been part of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and it was amazing to hear their stories and get a glimpse of the history they lived through and made happen.

Greg Jones, dean of the divinity school and author of Embodying Forgiveness, made some observations about a sculpture that the divinity school had commissioned that depicts the Luke 15 portrait of the father and his two sons. There is good news of the gospel here – the father’s arm is around the younger brother, in an embrace of welcome and forgiveness. But the posture of the older brother’s resistance indicates that there is yet work to be done, that much brokenness still exists. The task is for us to find ways to heal the brokenness, build bridges and restore shalom.

So reconciliation is both gift and work. It is a gift to be graciously received from God, that we are reconciled to him through the work of Christ. But reconciliation is also a call to be fulfilled, to be reconciled to others and to invite others into the experience of reconciliation, on personal, corporate and global levels.

There was a sense that a new kairos moment of opportunity is happening now. The world is terribly broken and divided, but there are signs of hope and encouragement, especially among a younger generation that is increasingly active in work for justice and peacemaking. I think today's college students and twentysomethings put my own cynical Gen X generation to shame. We Xers may have been somewhat immobilized by the magnitude of the world's problems, but today's upcoming generations, despite their own brokenness (or perhaps because of it) are more motivated and mobilized to be agents of change.


L.L. Barkat said...

Hey, yes, I heard you were there! (Little birdie, you know? : )

Al Hsu said...

Oh, yeah, there was some guy named Barkat there. :-)