The Ministry of Reconciliation
The fellowship offering (Lev. 3) was given in voluntary gratitude for past blessing, answered prayer, or a bountiful harvest. It has traditionally been called the peace offering because the root Hebrew word, shalom, means peace. The peace offering pictures the fellowship that we now have with God because of Christ’s death on the cross. We worship with thanksgiving and praise because we have been reconciled to God who has made us new creations in Christ.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:18-20). As members of the body of Christ we have been reconciled to God. Now we are His ambassadors for Christ and ministers of reconciliation. We are witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, because we are new creations in Christ, and we have His resurrected life within us. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we say to all who will listen, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (1 Cor. 5:20). Like God, we don’t count their sins against them, because what they do is just symptomatic of the real problem, which is their separation from God.
The message of reconciliation always begins with God, but it encompasses the relationships we have with others. It begins with God, because any attempt to unite fallen humanity on any basis other than Christ has always failed. When we are reconciled to God, we become brothers and sisters in Christ, and that is the basis for our unity. Trying to unite the body of Christ on any other basis other than our relationship with God has failed. The body of Christ will also remain fragmented as long as we associate purely on the basis of race, tradition, etc. The basis for our unity is our common heritage in Christ. That is why Paul exhorts us to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.” (Eph. 4:2-6).
The ministry of reconciliation originates with God. It must be personally experienced by faith, but it is universally inclusive. It is voluntarily accepted and voluntarily shared. The message has been entrusted to mankind to be delivered to all, but it is owned and accredited by God. It achieves what otherwise is impossible and gratefully experienced by all those who have received it. It is the greatest gift that one can receive and yet it is meant to be given away.
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