Friday, 5 October 2018

Richard Rolle : The Singing Mystic.

Excerpts from Richard Rolle, The Fire of Love
(Clifton Wolters trans. Penguin, 1972)
I cannot tell you how surprised I was the first time I felt my heart begin to warm. It was real warmth, too, not imaginary, and it felt as if it were actually on fire. I was astonished at the way the heat surged up, and how this new sensation brought great and unexpected comfort. I had to keep feeling my breast to make sure there was no physical reason for it! But once I realized that it came entirely from within... I was absolutely delighted, and wanted my love to be even greater. [prol.]
I offer... this book for the attention, not of the philosophers and sages of this world, not of great theologians bogged down in their interminable questionings, but of the simple and unlearned, who are seeking rather to love God than to amass knowledge. [prol.]
Men of action and rank, even if they are outstanding for their virtue or knowledge, should always put contemplatives before themselves, reckoning them to be their superiors before God, and admitting that they themselves are not capable of contemplation unless, maybe, God's grace should inspire them to it. [c.3]
Good Jesus, scourge me, wound me, slay me, burn me;
do with me here and now whatever in your goodness you decide;
that in the days to come I may know and feel
not evil but your love--and that, for ever!
To be despised, rejected, insulted by all,
for your sake, is sweeter to me
than to be called the brother of any earthly monarch,
honoured among men, and praised by all.... [c.9] him who attains the heights of contemplation with joy and ardent love, the desires of the flesh now lie virtually dead.... Now it is no longer he who lives, but Christ who lives in him [Gal 2:20], and as a result he is overwhelmed by love and longing for him. He almost dies because it is so beautiful; he can hardly live because of such love His is the soul that says, "tell my Beloved I am pining for love [Cant 5:8]; I am wanting to die; I long to pass away; I am burning to pass over. See I am dying through love! Come down, Lord. Come, Beloved, and ease my longing. See how I love, I sing, I glow, I burn. Spare a thought for this poor wretch: order me to be brought before you." [c.11]
There have been people, and there probably still are, who have without hesitation put communal life above the solitary.... [T]hey do not approve of the solitary life because they know nothing about it.... I do not doubt that if they did in fact have some knowledge of the [solitary] life, it would be this life they would be praising rather than the other.... A man is alone indeed if God is not with him.... On the other hand he who for God's sake has chosen the solitary life, and lives it properly, knows not so much "woe" as "wonderful strength," and rejoices continually as he recalls the Name of Jesus. The less men fear to embrace for God a life that has no human comfort, the more will it be given them to glory in divine consolation. For they are the recipients of fre;quent spiritual visitations which certainly they would not know in community... There are those who have been divinely taught to seek solitude for Christ's sake, and to hold on to it tight.... Many of their number, although they live physically among people, are mentally remote from them; they never falter in their heavenly longing, because in spirit they are far removed from a sinful way of life. [c.13]
As far as my study of Scripture goes, I have found that to love Christ above all else will involve three things: warmth and song and sweetness. And these three, as I know from personal experience, cannot exist for long without there being great quiet.....
In these three things (which are the sign of love in its most perfect form) the utmost perfection of the Christian religion is undoubtedly found.....
I call it fervour when the mind is truly ablaze with eternal love, and the heart similarly feels itself burning with a love that is not imaginary but real. For a heart set on fire produces a feeling of fiery love.
I call it song when there is in the soul, overflowing and ardent, a sweet feeling of heavenly praise; when thought turns into song; when the mind is in thrall to sweetest harmony.
This twofold awareness is not achieved by doing nothing, but through the utmost devotion; and from these two there springs the third, for unspeakable sweetness is present too. Fervour and song bring marvellous delight to a soul, just as they themselves can be the product of very great sweetness.
...[T]he soul in whom are met these three things I have been speaking of remains completely impervious to the darts of the enemy; she continues to think all the time of her Beloved, rising ever higher, with her will unbroken, and her love stimulated. [c.14]
Death, why do you delay?... Yes, I burn, I pant for you. If you come I will be safe. Ravished though I be with love, yet I still cannot enjoy fully what I so desperately want; not until I taste that joy you are going to give me. For if I must, or rather because I must, like all my forbears, pass your gate, I beg you do not delay too long, do not be too far off. You can see how I am pining because of love, how I am longing to die, how I am aflame for you. Not, of course, for your sake, but for the Saviour's, my Jesus, on whom, once I have got what I want from you, I hope to gaze eternally. [c.16]
...I long for love, the fairest of flowers, and inwardly burn with fiery flame.... The heat is such that no one can imagine it unless he has experienced its comfort for himself. His heart is bursting with song, a captive in the care of charity. For of all the things I experience here, this is the most delightful: I nearly die while it builds up its fervent love [c.16]
It is the mental wound caused by the flame of divine love that is referred to in "I am wounded with love." Similarly when one pines for love, and is carried away by it, one can say, "I languish for love." For it is thus that a man regards his Beloved. He forgets himself and everything else for Christ's sake; and so he says, "Set me as a seal upon your heart" [Cant 8:6]. For what is love but the transforming of the desire into the loved thing itself? Or if you prefer, love is a great longing for what is beautiful, and good, and lovely, with its thought ever reaching out to the object of its love. And when he has got it a man rejoices, for joy is caused only by love. Every lover is assimilated to his beloved: love makes the loving one like what he loves...
It is the nature of love to melt the heart (as, for example, "My soul melted when my Beloved spoke" [Cant 5:6]). For sweet love and a devout heart so dissolve in the divine sweetness that the will of man is united with the will of God in a remarkable friendship. In this union there is poured into the loving soul such sweetness of warmth, delight, and song that he who experiences it is quite unable to describe it.
The nature of love is that it is diffusive, unifying, and transforming. It is diffusive when it flows out and sheds the rays of its goodness not merely on friends and neighbours, but on enemies and strangers as well. It unites because it makes lovers one in deed and will, and draws into one Christ and every holy soul. He who holds on to God is one in spirit with him, not by nature, but by grace and identity of will. Love has also the power of transforming, for it transforms the lover into his Beloved, and makes him dwell in him. Thus it happens that when the fire of the Holy Spirit really gets hold of the heart it sets it wholly on fire and, so to speak, turns it into flame, leading it into that state in which it is most like God.... [c.17]
...whether this state of [perfect] love once attained can ever be lost is not an improper question to ask. For all the while a man can sin, it is possible for him to lose charity. But to be unable to sin means that a man is not still on the way but has reached his fatherland. Therefore however perfect a man may be in this life he is still able to sin, and sin mortally.... Yet I think there is a degree of perfect love which once a man reaches he will never thereafter lose. It is one thing to be able to lose it; it is another always to hold on to it because one does not want to let it go, even if such were possible.... When a man is perfectly converted to Christ, he will hold in contempt all things that are transient, but keep a tight hold on his longing for his Maker--as far as is given to mortals, who have to allow for the corruption of the flesh. [c.19]
We ought always to be praying, or reading, or meditating, and doing other useful things, so that our enemy never finds us idle. [c.20]
Some people are doubtful as to which life is the more meritorious and excellent, the contemplative or the active. To many of them the active life seems more deserving because of the amount of good works and preaching it performs. But this is the mistake of ignorance, because they do not know what the contemplative life stands for. True, there are many actives who are better than some contemplatives. But the best contemplatives are superior to the best actives. So we say therefore that the contemplative life, taken in itself, is sweeter, nobler, worthier, and more meritorious in respect of its fundamental principle, which is delight in uncreated good; in other words it is because this is the life which loves God more ardently.... There is in the contemplative life the basic principle which calls for a more fervent love than the active life affords; and because contemplatives are quiet in mind and body, they can savour the sweetness of eternal love more than others do. Actives, to be sure, serve God with their toil and outward activity, but they spend little time in inner quiet. And the result is that they can only rarely and briefly know spiritual delight. On the other hand contemplatives are almost always enjoying the embrace of their Beloved....
If any man could achieve both lives at once, the contemplative and the active, and sustain and fulfil them, he would be great indeed. He would maintain a ministry with his body, and at the same time experience within himself the song of heaven, absorbed in melody and the joy of everlasting love. I do not know if anybody has ever done this: it seems to me impossible to do both at once. We must not reckon Christ in this respect as an ordinary man, nor his blessed Mother as an ordinary woman. For Christ did not have wandering thoughts, nor did he contemplate in the way that saints in this life commonly do. He did not need to work at it as we need, because from the moment of his conception he saw God.
....Let him who manages his active life well set about rising up to the contemplative. But let not him who has reached the supreme degree of contemplation in the manner we have described come down to the active unless perchance he is obliged to accept office in the Church, a thing which as far as I know has never, or scarcely ever, happened.... For lesser saints are sometimes better fitted for ecclesiastical office than are greater ones, because for the matters of everyday business those unable to persevere quietly in interior longing are more suited. [c.21]
...just as air is suffused by the sun's rays and becomes itself splendid with the splendour of its light, so the devout mind, inflamed by the fire of Christ's love and filled with desire for heavenly joys, seems to be all love. It is totally transformed into something different, indescribably delightful, though it retains its fundamental essence. For when the mind is kindled by the fire of the Holy Spirit, it is liberated from all idleness and uncleanness. It is made sweet in the torrent of God's love, for it is always looking at him, and not considering earthly things at all, until that day when it is glorified with the perfect vision of its Beloved. [c.28]
If anyone wants to honour a martyr's triumph worthily let him show his devotion to his virtue by his imitation of it; let him share the martyr's cause even if he does not have to submit to his pain; let him persist in patience, for in so doing he will have complete victory. [c.29]
The lover of the Godhead, whose whole being is shot through with love for the unseen Beauty, rejoices in the deep recesses of his soul; he is gladdened by that most delightful fire, for he has given himself to God with utter devotion. And so,... when Christ wills it, he will receive into his heart a sound sent from heaven; and then his meditation will be turned into melody, and his mind will dwell in marvellous harmony.... [H]is melody is similar to that of the angels, though again it is not as great or exact, for he is still hampered by corruptible flesh. He who has experienced this sweetness, has at the same time experienced the songs of angels, because they are both of one and the same kind: one here, the other in heaven. It is the tune that makes the song, not the words that are chanted. [c.32]
A man raised to holiness can know that he has the song of which I have been speaking in this way: he cannot abide the noise of psalmody unless his own inner song is mentally attuned to it; it is destroyed if he has to speak outwardly. Some indeed are distracted in their singing and psalmody, not because they are perfect, but because they are not yet settled in their own minds. [But] those who are well founded cannot be distracted from prayer or meditation by noise or tumult or anything else: it is only from song that such things pluck them. For that sweet, spiritual song is very special, and given only to the most special! It is not an affair of those outward cadences which are used in church and elsewhere; nor does it blend much with those audible sounds made by the human voice and heard by physical ears; but among angel melodies it has its own acceptable harmony, and those who have known it speak of it with wonder and approval. [c.33]
Once he has been purged of his obscenities and all those thoughts which are not directed to this one thing, the lover, ablaze through these same spiritual caresses, strains with all his might to gaze upon his Beloved. And his shout, excited and bursting out from the core of his longing love, goes up, of course, to his Maker, though to him it seems as if he were shouting from far off....
But here I have to "give up" because of my inherent stupidity and dullness; I have not the wit to describe this shout or its magnitude, or even the pleasure it gives just to think of it, or feel it, or experience it.... [A]ll I want to say is that the shout is the song....
...what would I give to find a man who was experienced in that melody?... He would reveal to me the song I long to understand, and he would make plain and clear my joyous shout. The more I understood, the fuller would be my exultation, and surely the more fruitful my emulation of him. The fire of love would be shown me, and my joy and song would shine out for all to see. My confused thoughts would then lack no one to put them into praise, nor would I toil to no purpose. [c.34]
It is clear that "enraptured" can be understood in two ways. One way is when a man is rapt out of all physical sensation, so that at the time of his rapture his body quite clearly feels nothing and does nothing. He is not dead, of course, but alive, because his soul is still vitalizing his body. Sometimes the saints and the elect have been enraptured in this fashion, for their own good, and for others' enlightenment. Thus Paul was rapt to the third heaven [II Cor 12:2]. Even sinners sometimes experience raptures of this sort in visions, and see the joy of the good, or the punishment of the wicked...
But "rapture" in the other sense comes through the lifting up of the mind to God in contemplation; all perfect lovers of God go this way--and only those who love God. It is as accurate to call this "rapture" as the other, because there is a definite seizure, a something outside nature.... This second way is most desirable and lovely. For Christ was always contemplating God, yet it never detracted from his self-possession.
So one way is to be rapt by love while retaining physical sensation, and the other is to be rapt out of the senses by some vision, terrifying or soothing. I think that the rapture of love is better, and more rewarding. For to have the privilege of seeing heavenly things is a matter of God's gift, not our merit. [c.37]
Sometimes indeed when she would sing she [the soul] is rapt with wonderful sweetness and fluency; yet when the warmth is felt to be less she will often fly off into song with the greatest pleasure, and, in ecstasy, she knows that the heat and sweetness are with her in truth. Yet there is never heat without delight, though sometimes it can be without song, for physical singing or noise can hinder it and drive it back into thought. [c.37]
...still I lack those things which show the Beloved to the one who longs for him. And this wounds me, and fills me with longing, but gives no ease at all; rather it increases it, because with my growing love my longing increases too.... Love it is that tortures me, love that delights me. It tortures, because what is loved so much is not immediately granted me; yet it delights, because it refreshes me with hope, and infuses indescribable comfort through its very heat.
For a mighty longing develops when there is in the soul through its joy and love the song of songs, and the fierce heat produces further sweet delight. For now one likes to think that death is life. For the flower that this thought nourishes can never die, but the splendour which all the while is growing in the lover, and which seems so wonderful, makes of death and music one thing....
But those who do feel in themselves that [Christ] is delightful here, undoubtedly will see him in all his attractiveness there. For what he is to us now, such he will appear to us then; to the lover, lovable and desirable; to the non-lover, hateful and cruel. And the difference will not be in him, but in us. He himself is unchangeably the same, but every creature will see him according to his deserts. [c.38]

A man not consumed with eternal love must needs be purged with tears; but for him who longs with the love of eternity, love is sufficient punishment. No wound is more serious--or more sweet--than that of love. [c.40]
When first I was converted, and became single-minded, I used to think I would be like the little bird which pines for love of its beloved, but which can rejoice in the midst of its longing when he, the loved one, comes. While it sings its joy, it is still yearning, though in sweetness and warmth. It is said that the nightingale will sing her melody all night long to please him to whom she is united. How much more ought I to sing, and as sweetly as I can, to my Jesus Christ, my soul's spouse, through the whole of this present life. [c.42]

Saturday, 8 September 2018

The Fall and Rise of Wang Ming Dao by Georgina Giles

The year was 1949 and the first unified central government for forty years was in power in China. Christian believers were fearful.
At the Peking (Beijing) Christian Tabernacle, the congregation prepared itself for Communist rule. Wang Ming Dao, the pastor, continued to hold tenaciously to Scripture. The Christian, he affirmed, should obey the authorities (Romans 13:1-7). But if ordered to go against God’s inspired Word, the Bible, then it was God’s Word that must be observed.
The ‘Three Self’ Movement
Wang Ming Dao knew the greatest threat that confronted the church would come from within. A man called Wu Yaozong, a little known YMCA secretary having strong sympathies with Communism, seized his opportunity.
Over the years many had recognised a prophetic ring in Wang Ming Dao’s words. ‘From a man with a selfish heart’, he had written, ‘any terrible act can emerge. Anyone looking for selfish gain can lie, cheat, practise evil and plot for his self interest. The majority of sins in this world issue from people who are out for selfish gain’.
Wu Yaozong approached Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier. With his and Mao-Tse Tung’s full support, Wu drew up a ‘Christian Manifesto’. This called for the church to sever all ties with Western imperialism and purge itself of everything connected with it. The church must be self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating. Thus was born the government-sponsored Three Self Patriotic movement (‘TSPM’), and hundreds of thousands of Christians throughout China gave it their support. Wu Yaozong rose rapidly to power.
Adverse effects
Wang Ming Dao firmly believed in the separation of church and state. He recognised that the aim of the movement was to bring the church under state control.
Besides, the Christian Tabernacle had always been independent of Western aid or connection. There was no need for Wang to join. All his deepest convictions were in conflict with the beliefs propagated by Wu Yaozong and other leaders in the TSPM. Wu wrote in an article: ‘The incarnation, the virgin birth, resurrection, Trinity, last judgement, Second Coming etc., these are irrational and mysterious beliefs which cannot be understood or explained … no matter how hard I try, I cannot accept such beliefs’. Wang Ming Dao steadfastly refused to join the TSPM. He could act in no other way.
Meanwhile the churches that had joined the movement began to feel its adverse effects. The formidable ‘accusation meetings’, already a feature of the Communist secular world were introduced into the church. Pastors who had been linked with foreign missions were isolated, and their congregations encouraged to denounce them.
Another gospel
All over China, churches were torn apart. The Peking Christian Tabernacle was like an oasis in a spiritual desert, where pure biblical gospel preaching could still be heard.
Wang Ming Dao laboured night and day, setting up his own printing press to continue publication of the Spiritual Food Quarterly. His uncompromising stand on biblical truth strengthened Christians throughout the land.
Between 1951 and 1954, he published many books proclaiming the gospel and speaking out against the modernists. Those who preach the ‘social gospel’, he pointed out, ignore the essential atoning work of Christ for the individual’s eternal salvation and the purifying effect it has in this life. They seek to transform society and establish the ‘kingdom of heaven’ in this world.
But this, taught Wang, was ‘another gospel’ (Galatians 1:9). Such people have never put their own trust in Jesus. Men and women need to know the true gospel for their eternal safety and blessing.
Alarm bells
The TSPM ground its teeth. Its leaders deeply resented the man who was ‘an iron pillar against which the whole land could not prevail’. All they could do was to mount a personal attack on Wang.
In 1954 the TSPM ordered all churches in Beijing to send delegates to an ‘accusation meeting’ against Wang Ming Dao. Leslie Lyall (OMF) writes, ‘it would be difficult to find fault with him, for he practised what he preached: upright, disciplined living’.
Throughout the meeting, Wang did not speak a word. Imprisonment or the death sentence were called for. The congregation sat silent. Many wept. No penalty could be imposed.
So Ming Dao continued to preach. The crowds were larger than ever. The evangelistic meetings in January 1955, says Leslie Lyall, ‘were probably the most fruitful he had ever conducted’.
Then students, as students will, daringly started their ‘Oppose the persecution of Wang Ming Dao’ campaign. It received wide support all over China. Alarm bells began to ring in high places. Their plan to subjugate the church to Communist control was under threat.
Accusation meetings were arranged against Wang Ming Dao across the whole of China. Nevertheless, in two weeks of meetings in the Christian Tabernacle in July 1955, attendance broke all records. Wang’s important article, We, because of Faith, had been published. With powerful logic, he dealt with the arguments of the modernists. He explained how they overturned the Bible and the Christ of the Bible. Was he being uncharitable, he asked, if he called them ‘the party of unbelievers’?
The Three-Self controlled magazine (the Tianfeng) branded Wang Ming Dao ‘a criminal of the Chinese people, a criminal in the church and a criminal in history’.
On 7 August 1955, Wang preached his last sermon in the church. For thirty years he had laboured tirelessly to show his country where her true hope lay, namely, in the atoning work of Christ and obedience to his Word. His final sermon showed that the TSPM church leaders had betrayed Christ in China.
At midnight the police arrived and Wang was thrown into prison without a conviction. He was parted from his wife and did not realise that she had been imprisoned too.
To the Communists, Wang Ming Dao’s refusal to join the TSPM was a counter-revolutionary act, the very worst of crimes. They could not, of course, understand that he was called by God to summon the church to chastity to Christ.
Wang shared a filthy cell with two other prisoners. From his daily interrogations, Wang was returned to his cell to be taunted with descriptions of torture reserved for preachers, and to be beaten and pressurised by his fellow prisoners to confess his ‘crimes’.
Freedom and rearrest
The authorities used every device to break down the resistance of this powerful opponent to their scheme. After a year of tremendous pressure, Wang was informed of a wave of arrests of Bible-believing Christians sympathetic to him. Then news came of Jing Wun’s plight. She, too, was in detention, unable to eat the coarse prison food because of her poor health. China’s ‘iron man’ began to weaken. He ‘confessed’ to crimes he had not committed, and agreed to join the TSPM and preach for them. He signed a document stating he was a counter-revolutionary, and he and Jing Wun were freed.
Then began the darkest six months in Wang Ming Dao’s life. The TSPM leaders were elated. They waited eagerly to claim the lifeless jewel that would crown their movement. But with a mind deranged with guilt and sorrow for the denial of his Lord, Wang never did join or preach for the TSPM. With the same tender love the Lord had shown to Peter, Wang was granted time to regain normality by a period of illness.
He informed the government he could not join, Jing Wun affording outstanding support to her husband. Exactly seven months after their release, Wang Ming Dao and Jing Wun were re-arrested.
Restored in spirit
By the 1960s, Mao Tse Tung’s disastrous policies, along with natural calamities, left millions starving in a terrible famine. All, except high government officers, were affected. Officials at the bottom level were blamed for Mao’s mistakes.
While some ‘counter-revolutionaries’ were released at this time, Wang Ming Dao received the sentence he most dreaded — life imprisonment. Earlier, the Beijing People’s Court had drawn up charges against him. The recorded evidence stated that Wang Ming Dao and his wife had undermined the TSPM set up by Chinese Christians, and had accused the TSPM of committing adultery with the world.
It was now that God met with Wang Ming Dao and restored him to his brightest hour. A scripture he had learned many years before was brought by the Holy Spirit to his remembrance: ‘When I fall I shall arise, when I sit in darkness the Lord will be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him until he pleads my cause and executes judgement for me’ (Micah 7:7).
One great prison
Through the next sixteen and a half years Ming Dao was to suffer solitary confinement, torture, and the horror of five months of daily meetings attempting to force confessions from him.
But the Lord stood by him and gave him the victory through his Word. Never again was he to fall. Though Wang Dao’s voice was silenced, his life still spoke throughout the land.
During this time all China had become one great prison from which there was no escape. The ‘little red book’ of Mao’s teachings was in everyone’s hands. As the Cultural Revolution flourished, everyone spied on his neighbour and almost every family suffered at least one death.
Preaching again
In Beijing, more than anywhere else, the youthful Red Guards were authorised to terrorise intellectuals. Had Wang Ming Dao still been there, he would have been targeted for death. The ancient city walls were demolished, as things old and beautiful were destroyed to make way for Mao’s new China. Even the TSPM ceased to function.
Gradually it became clear that Mao had failed the nation. His ‘little red book’ was laid aside. God had destroyed the wisdom of the wise (1 Corinthians 1:19). In 1976 Mao Tse Tung died, and his revolution died with him.
Prison doors opened, and seventy-nine-year-old Wang Ming Dao, now nearly blind and very deaf, was free again. In his little home in Shanghai, and always mindful of his fall, he began again to preach the Holy Scriptures which are able to make one ‘wise unto salvation’ (2 Timothy 3:15). He died in 1991, a radiant witness to his Saviour.
The healthy state of the vast house-church movement in China today, and the breathtaking increase of true Bible-believing Christians there, are not unrelated to the life and work of Wang Ming Dao. He has emerged as the greatest Chinese Christian leader of the twentieth century.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Conclusions and Recommendations (Cont.) 3.

Placing Reconciliation at the Heart of Christian Mission in the 21st Century

 The alienation of divided peoples and the suffering of the afflicted cries out from our world’s brokenness, from both open, destructive conflicts and the more hidden conflicts.  These conditions call the church to listen to the pain and to God, to lament the divisions, to repent and forgive where necessary, and to be transformed as agents of healing, Christian witness and positive change.  Thus we invite Christians everywhere to carefully consider the following recommendations:
  1. To embrace biblically holistic reconciliation at the heart of the gospel and Christian life and mission in the 21st century, and as integral to evangelism and justice. This involves intentionally embedding this vision into the mission of our churches and institutions, and understanding reconciliation as a long and costly process, requiring hope from God.
  1. To humbly examine ourselves in the Christian community, seeking to identify and dismantle the escapist ideologies and practices which steer us away from reconciliation.This is grounded in the hard work of biblical study, social and theological analysis, corporate discernment, conversation with communities we have been divided from ,and prayer.
  1. To cross the difficult divisions, barriers, and borders to talk face to face with and listen to those we are separated from. This must involve seeking to talk and pray with Christians on the other side, listening to God and each other and praying for the unity Jesus prayed for (John 17:20-21).  Christian pastors and leaders should be at the forefront of these boundary-crossing efforts.
  1. To preach and teach radical discipleship with Christ and costly peacemaking as normative of Christian faith. This involves presenting discipleship as a journey with God and people which, over time, transforms our desires and opens up radical new ways of loving God, neighbour, and enemies.
  1. To refuse neutrality or silence in relationship to destructive conditions. We urge the church to be vigilant to discern conditions of escalating dehumanization and injustice (such as those the church worldwide failed to name in Rwanda leading to the 1994 genocide) and to engage church, civic and political leaders as advocates without compromising our biblical convictions.  It is a powerful form of protection for national voices of truth and justice when the church outside knows of them and speaks against threats to them, especially from countries of great international power.
  1. To intentionally shape pastors and congregations able to live the alternative and work toward These Christian leaders and communities will need to learn the practices of naming the conflicts and root causes for what they are; to serve, listen and bear witness across divisions and barriers; to comfort and bind up the afflicted; to seek and celebrate signs of hope through both small and large gestures and measures; to support peacemaking efforts in the larger community; and to bring former strangers and alienated peoples into common worship, friendship and mission under the lordship of Christ.
  1. To joyfully and publicly proclaim in our Christian preaching and life God’s victory and God’s future of reconciling “all things” in Christ. Amidst profound brokenness and pain, we must learn what it means to be bearers of hope, who faithfully bear witness to what is not seen, to the God who raised Jesus from the dead, defeating sin, evil, and the dark powers of this world.

The Hope for Reconciliation (cont.) 2.

Biblical and Theological Foundations of Reconciliation

Amidst the world’s profound brokenness, God’s peace in the risen Christ is now powerfully at work, seeking to reconcile humanity to God’s intended purposes for union with God, one another, and the material creation, resulting in the flourishing of all.  From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture witnesses to God’s total mission “to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:15-20).  The fullness of reconciliation is friendship with God in Jesus Christ, witnessed to in Christ’s two-fold command to love God and neighbour (Matthew 22:37-40).  Christ has prepared the way for reconciliation by abolishing the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile, making of the two one new humanity, establishing peace (Ephesians 2:11-18).  Reconciliation is a sign of God’s presence in the world, of the kingdom of God drawing near.   
The wholeness that God seeks to bring to all areas of brokenness is captured by the rich Scriptural notion of shalom.  This is shalom as rooted within the full biblical story and not in any nationalistic or politically partisan sense.  From the original wholeness of God’s creation, broken by the Fall, to God’s response to initiate restoration through covenant, to Christ tearing down the Jew-Gentile barrier, shalom proclaims peace as God’s peace in distinction to the world’s:
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you” (John 14:27).  Shalom as God’s peace envisions the wholeness, well-being and flourishing of all people and the rest of creation both individually and corporately in their interrelatedness with God and with each other.  Shalom as God’s peace encompasses all dimensions of human life, including the spiritual, physical, cognitive, emotional, social, societal and economic.  Shalompursues mercy, truth, justice and peacefulness through both personal conversion in Christ and social transformation.[4]
Because God created all persons in God’s image, reconciliation also proclaims God’s love for every human being.  One crucial implication is that Christians must stand against any destructive or dehumanizing barriers built up by one person or group of people against another, whether they are Christian or not.
One theological implication of the above three paragraphs is this: God’s mission of holistic reconciliation is the overall context for evangelism and making disciples.  Reconciliation with God is essential and Christians must be agents of that restoration.  However, to stress evangelism without also being agents of holistic reconciliation betrays the full truth of the gospel and the mission of God.
In view of all this, Christians are called to faithfully embody God’s total reconciling mission.  Through new life given in Christ, the Holy Spirit’s power, the church’s faithful teaching, and on-going Christian practices, people can be deeply transformed toward loving God, neighbour and enemies.  Only in this radical journey of conversion can Christians develop the skills to resist destructive conflicts and live out a way of being which, over time, can heal and reconcile.
The church’s ministry of reconciliation flows from a call to being a reconciled community.
Christ prayed for the visible unity of the church, and intimately connected Christian unity to Christ being known as the One sent from God: “I pray . . . that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-23).
We are led by Christ crucified to fully engage painful historical conditions and by the risen Christ to explode walls and barriers and build new forms of common life.
The church’s ministry should also be profoundly shaped by the truth that Jesus is fully human and fully divine.  Christian discipleship is led by the crucified Christ to fully engage the painful historical conditions of separation, animosity, and destruction in the earthly realm, refusing “cheap grace” and  shallow resolutions.  Christian discipleship is also led by the risen Christ to live in ways which explode old walls and barriers and build hopeful new forms of Christian community and just society between divided peoples.
Reconciliation and the quest for justice go hand in hand.  There cannot be reconciliation if sin is not named, judged publicly and condemned.  In the face of oppression, to reject vengeance is a double injustice — to the afflicted and to God’s wrath against evil.  What is crucial is how we appropriate vengeance: “Do not take revenge…but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).  In Jesus’ death, God judged all sins, abuses and atrocities.  God’s forgiveness in Christ “while we were yet sinners” guides our pursuit of justice toward healing.  One mark of holistic reconciliation is a commitment to pursuing justice that is primarily restorative rather than retributive, keeping open the hope for future common life between enemies and alienated peoples.
At the same time, we must heed Scripture’s exhortation that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood.”  It is crucial to recognize an unseen, heavenly dimension to the quest for reconciliation in the world, a struggle against certain destructive forces and their ideologies, against “rulers,” “powers of this dark world,” “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:10-18).  This calls for a deep life of prayer and discernment “in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18) at the centre of Christian ministry amidst destructive conflict and proclaims that reconciliation is ultimately a matter of God’s power and victory.
Difference itself, or differences, are not necessarily the problem calling for reconciliation.  In many ways, diversity of peoples and cultures is a gift, such as another language opening up a new world to us, or another culture as a gift to enrich us.  Often the problem is how the will to dominate exploits the differences.  While God’s mission of reconciliation does not obliterate human diversity, it does seek to bring friendship with God and neighbour in a way which transforms human cultures.  We must carefully and locally discern where the gospel affirms culture, where it opposes, and where it encourages transformation.  Christians are called to lives of hospitality, to open themselves to the stranger, the alien, the outcast, and the enemy.  Such openness radically changes one’s relationship to one’s culture, and how one engages cultures in transforming ways.  The pursuit of reconciliation is an ongoing struggle.  This quest should not be expected to end conflict in this world, but rather to transform it.  True reconciliation and shalom is only in the eschaton, when all things are reconciled in Christ.  While full reconciliation does not happen in this life, there is hope of substantial healing.

The Scope of Reconciliation

Every act seeking reconciliation, no matter how small, matters greatly to God.  The scope of reconciliation runs from healing in one person’s life, to two individuals overcoming animosities, to nations and long-divided peoples seeking to do so.
This work of becoming peacemakers between divided peoples is not secondary or optional, but is central to Christian mission along with planting churches and making disciples.  Indeed, this costly work and the persecution it may bring bears witness to some who are otherwise unable to hear the gospel, and is at the core of making disciples who “obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).
This peacemaking work must be theologically grounded.  In our emerging world, some are seeking a common ground of universality to provide meaning for “one world.”  Scripture testifies that God in Jesus Christ alone is the centre of hope for the world’s peace, and also that all of humanity is created in God’s image.  Following Jesus’ definition of our neighbour (Luke 10:25-37), Christians are called to seek truthful engagement, peacefulness and just community with all people — especially strangers, enemies, the poor and those considered outcasts both ethnically and religiously.
At the same time, there is a qualitative difference between how reconciliation can be pursued outside versus inside community with Christ.  The Lordship of Christ claims the whole lives of persons and alienated groups, something no other authority including the state can demand.  Christ offers forgiveness and healing which no legal effort or human attempt can effect and calls His disciples to a repentance and joy which is radical.  Christ calls for far more than admitting guilt, but deep contrition, and a costliness and depth to healing broken relationships that goes far beyond tolerance or peaceful coexistence.
This witness begins at home.  For the church to make peace, she herself must embody God’s peace as a living sign of God’s reconciled community.  Baptism identifies believers as one church family, the body of Christ.  Within their families, local churches, and the larger Christian family and our tragic divisions, Christians are called to a special witness of fidelity, sacrificial love, boundary crossing, and common prayer, seeking to heal conflicts following our Lord’s words in Matthew 18:15-20.  Wherever Christian leaders will not pray together and seek reconciliation, the church’s mission is seriously harmed.
Biblical reconciliation also leads Christians beyond church circles to vigorously analyze, engage and influence our local communities, nations and world as witnesses for reconciliation and just community.  Without sacrificing our Christian convictions, we should seek to partner creatively with people of good will to promote peace, including with people of other faiths.  At the heart of the church’s public engagement is a prophetic responsibility to call political authorities to account.  Governing authorities are subject to the sovereign Lord for their conduct in ensuring just order and peaceful relations.
Certain legal, governmental and national efforts can bring a cessation of hostilities and public pursuit of truth and just practices that the church alone cannot bring and for which the church should advocate.  Christian partnership with such efforts can even elevate their outcomes in profound ways (as with South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the 1990s).  Yet involvement with governmental efforts should not become the primary end or determinative sphere of the church’s reconciling mission.  They must be approached carefully, critically, and provisionally.  The church must never compromise its identity or prophetic voice.  

The Process of Reconciliation

Reconciliation is a long and costly process.  Reconciliation is not a one-time event, or a linear journey of progress, but addresses multiple causes and relations that intermingle.  Christians are called to be intentional and energetic in pursuing reconciliation, to go out of their way to love their neighbour who is difficult to love.
This costly journey requires hope, nurtured in practices where we listen to God in worship, Scripture reading, and prayer.  As we open to the pain of a broken world, we hear God’s word that ultimately, in the eschaton, all things will be reconciled in Christ.  In the meantime, we do our part.  It is this hope that keeps the process moving forward.
In biblical understanding, no one party in a historic conflict — whether majority or minority, powerful or powerless, aggressor or afflicted — has the greater burden to take the first step toward reconciliation.  The initiative for reconciliation begins wherever people find the courage to “lose themselves” and take ownership of pain: to no longer deny the conditions of trauma, to embrace the predicament of division, and to join the struggle for transformation by discovering the human face of the “other.”
Too often, we ask forgiveness of God without asking forgiveness of people.  Following the example of Jesus’ love for enemies and forgiveness for undeserving sinners, Christians are unconditionally called to seek within themselves for and to actively offer both heartfelt confession and genuine forgiveness.  We do this without promise that our action will be received or reciprocated, or that justice will occur.  Establishing a social atmosphere of relative safety and security is crucial for such actions to become widely possible, especially for those who have been marginalized.
While confession or forgiveness can come from one direction, reconciliation between divided peoples requires a risky, mutual journey of intentional relationship-building in which all groups are transformed and called to costly sacrifices.  Reconcilers may be seen as traitors by their own people, and often become a bridge painfully walked on by both sides.
Both perpetrators of destructive conflict and bystanders who remain safely silent and privileged are called to accept responsibility for the condition of those wounded and afflicted.  Their confession and sorrow opens a conversation about the conflict and its genuineness is often tested in a willingness to take actions of reparation to counter the consequences of harm.   One further barrier to reconciliation is the residue of unresolved bitterness toward people and groups who have offended us.  There is a need to face the residue and pain inflicted upon us as first steps toward reconciliation.  Such courage cannot be forced.  Yet many of history’s most powerful reconciliation movements have been birthed among Christians of the historically marginalized and afflicted who proclaim Christ’s triumph over evil, speak truth without demonizing the other side, pray for and engage their persecutors, seek forgiveness and work for a future of just community and common life across the lines of division.

 Indications of Reconciliation

 Only God knows what true reconciliation looks like, and the fullness when a countless multitude from every people and language will worship before the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-10).  Since reconciliation is an ongoing quest, the challenge is to point out where we are and to mark signs of hope.  As reconciliation efforts move forward, conflict and resistance may often increase.  Yet indications of reconciliation can become the very signs of God’s kingdom breaking into this world.  Christians should eagerly seek these indications of hope, from the church living the alternative, to practices of faithfulness, to changes in society.
The church itself ought to be a key indication of hope, a living alternative, infusing and challenging the social sphere with a more radical vision of God’s reconciliation.  Examples of the church visibly living the alternative include: across long-divided lines, Christians form holy friendships, offer hospitality, share meals, pray and read Scripture together, celebrate holy communion, mutually confess and forgive, and forge common mission; unlearn habits of superiority, inferiority and separation; celebrate together, and praise and worship God while engaging the world’s pain and working towards shalom; free Christian institutions of discrimination and unjust use of resources; show remarkable joy amidst difficult work; marry across ethnic boundaries and divided lines, with blended families becoming a sign of a new community.  At the heart of the church’s alternative witness is the birth and perseverance of blended congregations where historically separated peoples share deep, common life.
Christians understand faithfulness as shaped by the cross, as a costly discipleship that re-defines effectiveness.  Faithful practices of social engagement, even if they seem to result in no visible change, are also profound indications of hope amidst destructive conflicts.  Examples are when Christians forgive persecutors; prophetically challenge unjust situations; aid afflicted neighbours; absorb evil without passing it on; witness to Christ amidst hostilities; offer hospitality across divides; continue seeking peace even when called traitors; suffer, or even die, rather than participate in destruction.
The church should also eagerly work for indications of reconciliation in society.  These include: enemy leaders enter dialogue, violence stops, persecution is reduced, or hostilities cease; crimes and destruction by all sides are brought to light in a context of restorative justice; loved ones and the larger society learn the fate of victims; deeper truth around a painful shared history is appropriately and communally remembered; a state of tolerance is achieved where estranged groups agree to live peaceably; more just societal structures and practices emerge; children of hostile groups begin to go to school and play together; inter-marriage increases across historic lines of separation; neighbourhoods become blended communities of shared, peaceful life.

Reconciliation as the Mission of God (an excerpt) 1.

This is an excerpt from Lausanne Occasional Paper 51:  Reconciliation as the Mission of God which was published in connection with the 2004 Forum on World Evangelization.

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [the Son], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come!  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 people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20a
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:44-45)
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28)

The Vision of Reconciliation

The mission of God in our fallen, broken world is reconciliation.  Sacred Scripture witnesses that God’s mission of reconciliation is holistic, including relationships with God, self, others, and creation.  This mission has never changed from the Fall to the new creation in Christ, to its fulfilment in the coming of Jesus in the eschaton.  God’s reconciling mission involves the very in-breaking of the Kingdom of God, as realized through Jesus’ incarnation, His life and ministry and preaching, and through His death and resurrection.
God’s initiative of reconciliation through Christ transforms believers into God’s new creation.  With all of creation, we await our final and perfect transformation in the end of time.  At that time, when Jesus returns, God’s mission will be complete.  People of every nation, tribe, and language, gathered as one, will worship the Lamb, the tree of life and its leaves shall be for the healing of the nations, and the new heavens and earth shall make the reign of God a reality with all things reconciled to God (Romans 8:18-39, Revelation 7:9-17; 21-22:5).
Reconciliation is God’s initiative, restoring a broken world to God’s intentions by reconciling “to himself all things” through Christ (Colossians 1:19) including the relationship between people and God, between people and with God’s created earth.  Christians participate with God’s mission by being transformed into ambassadors of reconciliation.
In response to all this, the believer is called to participate in God’s mission of reconciliation.  This includes obeying Jesus’ command to humbly make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), teaching them to follow the example of Jesus who suffered for a suffering world.  The church is called to be a living sign of the one body of Christ, an agent of hope and holistic reconciliation in our broken and fragmented world.  
A serious impediment to God’s mission of reconciliation in our time is not only the reality of destructive divisions and conflicts around the world, but quite often the church being caught up in these conflicts — places where the blood of ethnicity, tribe, racialism, sexism, caste, social class, or nationalism seems to flow stronger than the waters of baptism and our confession of Christ.   
While the church’s suffering faith is evident in many conflicts, the guilt of Christians in intensifying the world’s brokenness is seriously damaging our witness to the gospel.  The church’s captivity is both direct and indirect, whether actively furthering destruction and division, remaining silent or neutral in the face of it, or promoting a defective gospel.  This is true of recent and current contexts including legalized apartheid (South Africa), “ethnic cleansing” (the Balkans), genocide (Rwanda), histories of racism and ethnocentrism (USA), terror and killing of civilian populations and bitter, unresolved social divisions (ranging from “sectarianism” in Northern Ireland, to Dalit “untouchables” and caste in India, to the plight of Aboriginal peoples in Australia, to the Korean peninsula, to Palestinians and Israelis).  Christians are often bitterly divided on both sides.  
This troubled situation calls for prayer, discernment, and repentance, and a critical reexamination of the very meaning of mission, evangelism, discipleship and even church in relation to God’s reconciling mission.  This is particularly urgent given cases where vast areas of revivals and church planting have become vast killing fields (such as Rwanda 1994), with Christians slaughtering neighbours and even other Christians.
Yet even in the worst conflicts, signs of the quest for reconciliation can be detected in the church.  Christians have shaped many of the world’s most hopeful breakthroughs for reconciliation.  In becoming agents of biblically holistic reconciliation, we must learn to name and confess the sins of the past and present and encourage others to do the same, be willing to forgiveand live in new ways of repentance and costly peacemaking.  Above all, Christians must be people of hope; hope in God’s victory in Christ and that, over time, reconciliation can break in, because this is God’s mission.

The Context of Reconciliation

The Social and Historical Context of Conflict

God created humanity in God’s image, for natural union and wholeness of life with God, one another, and God’s material creation.  The Fall shattered this union, resulting in the estrangement seen in Cain’s murder of Abel.  While destructive conflict is rooted in this rupture, it cannot be explained solely in terms of wicked human hearts.  Powerful historical and social forces, unjust systems, and “spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12) are also part of the world’s brokenness.  The transmission of the gospel and the ministry of the church do not run in a pure, separate historical stream, but are carried on inside of and tainted by the world’s poisoned, muddy histories.  All the agents of brokenness must be discerned and confronted—personal, social, and spiritual.
In our shrinking and increasingly pluralistic and globalized world, manifestations of social division are intensifying.  Destructive conflicts crying out for reconciliation include both open conflict and “quieter” conditions of persistent injustice, division, and separation.  Four interrelated dimensions of historical social conflicts must be engaged: the past and its trauma; how that past is named and remembered; how the present is described and engaged; and how the future is imagined.    
In terms of the past and its trauma, destructive social conflicts and realities do not drop like meteors from the sky.  Behind each trauma are infective histories, particular social, economic, spiritual, institutional and political factors and powers, and the reality that the oppressed of yesterday often become the new oppressors, repeating cycles of destruction.[2]  Reconciliation is not forgetting the past.  Yet naming and remembering the past well is difficult.  Sharing a history in every social division are offenders and offended, passive bystanders and active peacemakers, with lines between them rarely agreed upon and alienated groups and the Christians within them holding tightly to conflicting versions of truth.  In response to God’s love and justice, however, Christians are called to fearlessly seek and name the truth of what has happened, guided by repentance and forgiveness.  This must involve seeking shared truth across divided lines.  Deformed ways of remembering the past include denial, social amnesia, a spirit of unforgiveness and uncritical affirmation of one’s own group and its history.   
In the present where we live, haunted memories, the unresolved past, and continuing trauma have a cumulative effect.  These forces can so pervade a culture, a people, that they are passed on from generation to generation — perpetuating distrust, fear, bitterness, exclusion, retribution, and the politics and economics which often exploits these realities.  Persistent unjust balances of societal power are also a consequence of the unresolved past and present.  In the face of all this, divided groups easily resign themselves to separate and alienated communities, jostling for power.  If militarism enters as an option of providing some with personal security while neglecting human security for all, conflicts rise to devastating levels.   
Against these forces of the past and present, alienated groups cannot even imagine a future of friendship, solidarity or common life.  Instead, they accept and live with permanent categories of another group as aliens, strangers or enemies: “black” and “white;” Hutu and Tutsi; clean and “untouchable;” South and North Korean; and “terrorist” and “terrorized.”  Fragmentation becomes normal, acceptable and even inevitable.   

The Church & Mission Context

When Christians are passive bystanders and refuse to become constructive agents of reconciliation amidst such divisions and destructive conflicts, we are guilty of withholding love to a neighbour, the love of God is not manifested in our lives, and we give life to a defective gospel.
Numerous ideologies of escape steer Christians away from reconciliation and must be named and rejected by the church.  These include:  
  • Dualistic theologies which are silent about social problems, name enemies as solely non-human evil spirits, preach the sufficiency of individual salvation without social transformation, or the sufficiency of social involvement without personal conversion in Christ;
  • Ethnocentrismracialism, sexism or nationalism that promote the fallacy of any ethnic, cultural, gender or national group’s self-sufficiency, and promote loyalty to and the self-interest of one’s group as an end in itself. Ultimate loyalty is intended for Jesus alone, who calls us to love our neighbour as well as our enemies, and not only “our own”;
  • A false belief in God’s creation of essentially different people groups, justifying permanent boundaries between them. This includes the Hamitic ideology, that teaches that God has cursed the descendents of Ham, Noah’s son, creating separate orders of peoples—some inferior and some superior.  This is a heresy.  Rooted in this ideology was racial segregation in the USA, apartheid in South Africa and genocide in Rwanda, which many Christians supported, along with believing in their underlying ideology;
  • A spirit of individualism seen in Christian disunity, competitiveness, or deplorable schisms and splits which infect many denominations, churches, Christian institutions and ministries. This disunity and egoism blinds our ability to discern the world’s need for reconciliation and seriously harms the church’s ministry;
  • Adopting numbers of conversions or church plants as a primary measure of Christianity’s growth, allowing churches or ministries to grow with superficial discipleship, homogeneously, or in ways that perpetuate histories and systems of separation and alienation. This tacit approval of permanent boundaries and segregated lives limited to ”people like us” falsely blesses the chasm between alienated groups and disables our ability to be self-critical;[3]
  • An underlying message of cheap grace that encourages shallow resolutions, a superficial discipleship powerless to engage social pain, and reconciliation without repentance. A biblical theology of the cross and suffering is needed to renew the church’s thinking and life.
Against these ideologies of escape, the church must formulate theological alternatives that encourage authentic reconciliation.
Regarding other situations, when sweeping revivals and rapid church growth occur, Christians must restrain from triumphalism.  In too many cases, Christians have been implicated in destructive conflict which has overtaken vast areas of revival and church planting.  The church has failed to be self-critical or discerning enough, or to adequately answer “How did this happen, and where did Christians fail?”
In addition, Christians cannot be neutral in a time of social crisis.  Too often we are silent about destructive conditions occurring around us, or in our world.  Any dichotomy between the evangelistic and the prophetic is false.  Along with leading believers into personal holiness, the church is charged to have a prophetic social presence.  The church must learn to speak the truth to powers.  This calls us to “discern the will of God” concerning societal powers and governing authorities that have immense influence over the lives of Christians, over our nonChristian neighbours and over destructive conflicts and societal realities.   
The capacity to be a prophetic church is being seriously eroded by three stances.  A religious pluralist stance promotes social transformation without personal conversion, losing the uniqueness and lordship of Christ.  A quietist stance ignores social evil, is silent when people suffer persecution, and preaches the sufficiency of individual salvation without social transformation, losing public social witness.  An assimilationist stance misuses the Bible to support the status quo of social or political exclusion, or weds Christian interests with particular governing authorities, losing all prophetic distance. 
In addition, the church often shares in the sin of comfortable neutrality, the complacency of those who find themselves on the side of social privilege and fail to work vigorously to transform the status quo.  This is at least true of those who tend to preside over the levers of theological power and influence.  Thus the theology of the church is often in support of the status quo, or asks very few critical questions, losing all prophetic voice and domesticating the gospel.
Yet God’s forgiveness in Christ makes possible the church’s faithful confrontation of past and present trauma and injustices.  As communities of Christians learn to model confession, forgiveness and costly peacemaking in lives marked by joy, we proclaim a new future and offer a vision of hope to a broken world.