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Diaconal Reconciliation and Peacemaking

In this series on Deacons and Justice, we have looked at how structural injustice creates obstacles to creating communities of justice, and how deacons (and all Christians) work to affirm the dignity of all peoples. One final but essential piece of Christian justice work is the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5: 17-21).

Why, as Christians, do we feel that this work of reconciliation is so central to our faith? Charles Spurgeon speaks beautifully that “the reconciling work on God’s part, is already done – the work of salvation was done for ever; and on God’s part, there is nothing now to be removed in order that all who trust his Son may be at perfect peace with him. This ministry of reconciliation is to speak out, in simple, earnest, living words, the message which has been given to us.”

While we all as Christians are to invite others to experience the mercy of God’s love in the face of our sin, there is also the intersection here on earth where justice and reconciliation collide.

And this stand was formed by the belief that Christ suffered and died for the reconciliation of all people to God Himself.

This summer I’ve been reading the new Martin Luther King Jr. biography by Jonathan Eig called “King”. (Not light beach reading, by any means!)  Taking this deep dive into the history of race relations in the USA has shown me exactly how reconciliation and justice connect. One thing that stands out to me in the book is the lengths to which many white Southern communities in the late 1950s and early 60s would go to keep segregation alive. In some cities, they preferred to shut down parks, pools, and libraries rather than share the amenities with Black people. Until justice was served by the breaking down of racial segregation barriers, there could be no reconciliation between the white and Black residents. 

Martin Luther King Jr. and many church leaders stood in the gap between justice and reconciliation – calling white Southerners to account for their racism, white Northerners for their hypocrisy and complacency, and Black people to the patient suffering of nonviolent protest. And this stand was formed by the belief that Christ suffered and died for the reconciliation of all people to God Himself.

This is where the Christian Reformed deacons’ mandate ends: “In all your ministries help us (the congregation) participate in the renewing of all things even as we anticipate its completion when God’s kingdom comes”. 

Where is your church standing in the gap between justice and reconciliation? Is your church lovingly welcoming to the voices of the LGBTQ+ youth and adults in your community, or is their voice excluded from the discussions of the Human Sexuality Report happening at your church? Do you know the issues facing your local Indigenous nation(s) and do you participate in local walks for reconciliation or other events? How do you support parents who are struggling to care for a child with drug addictions?

A Community Opportunity Scan supports a church as it discovers where the gifts and strengths of their church connect with the strengths of the community 

At Diaconal Ministries Canada, one of our most in depth resources for supporting churches wishing to engage this intersection of justice and reconciliation is our Community Opportunity Scan and NewGround grant program. We provide in-depth coaching for a year or longer as a church engages in listening conversations in their community. A Community Opportunity Scan supports a church as it discovers where the gifts and strengths of their church connect with the strengths of the community to meet the challenges facing the socially excluded. This can look like advocating for a better bus system for seniors, supporting a local youth shelter, or building trails to preserve vulnerable eco-systems threatened by development. 

If you’ve been following along with this series of blogs, it becomes clearer and clearer that the deacons’ mandate holds together all the pieces of complex justice and benevolence work through addressing structural injustice and leaning into the ministry of reconciliation God has called us to. When we work to bring justice to our communities by standing in the gap between justice and reconciliation, the door is open to invite others to see God in our ministry as Charles Spurgeon so insightfully wrote as “the God of peace, and he has, on his part, prepared everything that is needful for a perfect reconciliation. . . he can meet man upon the ground of mercy, and man can again become the friend of God.”

Cited: “The Ministry of Reconciliation” by Charles Spurgeon. July 8, 1877 (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 49).

Photo by Emre Can Acer:


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