For many of us, the week after Holy Week leaves us wondering what is next. The period of self-denial is over for those who chose to participate in Lent. The excitement of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday services is behind us. That day when we anticipate a well-versed response to our declaration, “Christ is risen,” is now about a year in the future.
The challenge in the shadow of the energy of Holy Week is to continue to live in the light of the resurrection. How do we carry the joy of the resurrection with us as we complete our daily work in the days after Calvary and the empty tomb?
The Ministry of Reconciliation
According to Paul, those who have trusted in the truths of Easter have been given a ministry of reconciliation. In 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, Paul explains Christ’s ministry of reconciliation and commends his Christian readers to a similar ministry:
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
It is clear, however, that our ministry of reconciliation is not to be simply a matter of verbally declaring gospel truths to those around us (though it necessarily includes that). It also includes bringing the gospel to bear in our homes and at work.
Paul goes on to explain,
We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way… (2 Cor. 6:3-4).
He then lists a wide variety of ways to be faithful. The laundry list includes endurance in suffering and persecution, but it also includes everyday virtues like knowledge, truthful speech, and kindness.
The message here is simple and profound: the ministry of reconciliation we have been given is a call to bring all of life under the lordship of Jesus Christ. It’s our role as members of God’s holy priesthood (Col. 3:23) to join him in his work of reconciling mankind and his creation unto himself (Rev. 21:5).
The Example of Christ
Setting aside the unique aspect of Christ’s ministry of reconciliation, which is his work on the cross, we see in the gospel accounts many ways that Christ showed what reconciliation looks like:
- Christ fed the hungry (John 6:1-15)
- He gave sight to the blind (John 9:1-12)
- Jesus served his disciples (even the one he knew to be his enemy, Judas) by washing their feet (John 13:1-20)
- There are even more accounts of Christ’s work in the synoptic Gospels, and John tells us that Jesus did many other things that he didn’t have space to write (John 21:25). We can presume they would be similar to those laid out in the text John gave us.
While we may not miraculously feed thousands or heal people as Christ did, these actions are representative of how we are to be serving and loving others in our daily lives. Part of our challenge, sometimes, is to understand what that looks like and to make the connection between our daily work and the ministry of reconciliation.
Finding Reconciliation in Our Work
When I used to work for a power company, I understood that my daily work helped keep the lights on in hospitals so that healing could go on. Now I do paperwork for a Christian university so that others can educate students. Other examples are:
- A homemaker’s work reconciles many things by keeping order in the home, meeting the physical and emotional needs of children, and feeding the five (not normally the five thousand)
- The plumber enacts a ministry of reconciliation by ensuring proper sanitation in a home or a workplace that helps people stay healthy
- The mid-level manager works out practical reconciliation by keeping processes on track, encouraging staff in their daily work, and mediating minor disputes
All of these seem vastly distant from Christ’s atoning work on the cross. However, they are all examples of practical ways we can be ministers of reconciliation and demonstrate what the gospel looks like in our seemingly unrelated daily tasks.
Sustaining an Attitude of Reconciliation
The hardest aspect of being a Christian is sustaining a focus on being fully gospel-centered over the long haul.
It’s relatively easy to get dressed up on Sundays to do gospel work at church. It’s possible to be energized on any given day to serve faithfully and point to our savior through the everyday work we do.
However, it is much more difficult to be consistently focused on the ministry of reconciliation for months and years.
Paul anticipated this, which is why he begins his list of practical ways the ministry of reconciliation is implemented with “great endurance” (2 Cor. 6:4). This, no doubt, serves to characterize the magnitude of the real persecution he faced, but it also qualifies the nature of the perseverance in the ordinary efforts he outlines.
The ministry of reconciliation is powerful when it relates to the singular event of Christ’s work on the cross and made plain to many through immediate proclamation. However, it can also be powerfully communicated through our daily work.
I encourage you to find the connections between your daily tasks and gospel reconciliation, then seek to carry them out in light of the hope that has been given to you through Christ’s greater work of redemption.