Our congregations: Hubs for Reconciliation

Joe Campbell

11.4.2017 | Congregational Life, Discipleship, Vision for Society

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Vision for Society Statement seeks to continue to place peacebuilding firmly at the heart of Christian discipleship and the Church itself. In this fifth and final blog in the series on each of its five paragraphs, Joe Campbell reflects on the last paragraph and recalls an event during his time in Nepal, writing “Reconciliation for them was not the restoration of the status quo; rather it was the beginning of something completely new.”

WE SEEK a more reconciled community

at peace with each other,

where friend and foe,

working together for the common good,

can experience healing

and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Are you coming with me? I need to see my sister.” The pastor was on his small motorbike, by far the most common means of getting around in Nepal where most of the roads are unpaved. Before long both men were well into their one-hour journey to see the sister the pastor’s friend did not know he had.

Both had attended the forgiveness and reconciliation workshop a few days earlier. The pastor had been convicted about the over two decades long broken relationship with his older sister, which was caused by disagreements over land ownership and the will of their parents.

Tears, relief, joy and new beginnings

When the motorbike pulled up at a cabin beside the road a woman appeared in the doorway. She and the pastor embraced for a long time. There were tears, lots of them, yet somehow they were tears of relief, joy and new beginnings.

That embrace is often the image we have of reconciliation, but what’s the technique, the skills, the steps, the model? When we look at the life of Jesus, questions of technique or method may not be the best starting point. Perhaps some of these scenarios sound familiar? “That person sitting just a few rows in front of us in church, our families had words years ago; that brother of mine, we haven’t spoken in years since the big fall out. That woman I see regularly on the High Street, I have never spoken to her, I just couldn’t because she’s connected to politicians from the other side.”

Reconciliation is the gift of God

Reconciliation is not human achievement, it cannot be bought with euros, dollars or sterling and it cannot be negotiated for or given to us by politicians. Reconciliation is the gift of God. Actually its God’s work; we are His ambassadors when we allow the Spirit of God to flow through us, prompting us to do what we know in our hearts is the right thing.

Our motor-biking pastor in Nepal had probably felt the urging of the Spirit for some time, perhaps even years, to go and make things right with his sister. Reconciliation for them was not the restoration of the status quo; rather it was the beginning of something completely new.

How about our congregations becoming hubs for the healing of relationships?  I wonder what would happen if each of us carried that spirit of reconciliation out of our churches and into our villages, towns and communities, perhaps the people would say “see how those Christians love.”

“I have given you an example…”

The pastor in Nepal was doing what most Nepali Christians do, they read God’s Word, take it seriously and go out and live it. Perhaps that’s why their churches are growing by up to 10% every year.

Perhaps we in PCI need to put a higher priority on our relationships with one another. When we do that we are simply doing what God’s Word says in John 13: 15, “I have given you an example that you should do to others as I have done to you.”

Joe and his wife Janet served as overseas mission personnel with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in Nepal from 2006 to 2010. Previous to that Joe worked on peacebuilding and reconciliation with Mediation Northern Ireland. He is clerk of session in First Holywood Presbyterian Church and enjoys messing about in boats.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Vision for Society Statement was welcomed and adopted by the General Assembly in June 2016. Its five paragraphs are a declaration of belief, confession, affirmation and aspiration for our members across Ireland as disciples of Jesus Christ and as peacebuilders.

You can read all blogs in this series here. For free resources, including short promotional films, a specially written hymn - based on the words of the statement - downloadable poster and prayer card visit the resources section here.

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