Risen for reconciliation, not revenge

Published 12:44 pm Friday, April 10, 2009

Beginning on Easter Day, the Christian Church has traditionally celebrated the resurrection of Jesus during a period that concludes on the Day of Pentecost.

In the church this time is designated as “Easter Season” and is often called the Great Fifty Days. Its number of days is rooted in the biblical number of days the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples (40) and the number of days his disciples waited after his Ascension to receive the promised Holy Spirit (10), which descended upon them on Pentecost, the 15th day of Easter Season.

Easter Season provides Christians a focused time for considering the special meaning of the presence of the risen Jesus Christ in our world and on the mission that each Christian has in light of his presence.

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Jesus’ triumph over death and the grave mean that we can experience new life through his grace. We are given the gift of eternal life in his name. We are also given new life now.

The new life made possible through the risen presence of Jesus Christ is spoken of throughout the New Testament.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes of the “ministry of reconciliation” that Christians have been given through Christ who has reconciled them to God, “not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to [them] the message of reconciliation.”

For Paul this is a vocational assignment from God, which makes Christians “ambassadors for Christ.”

Paul knew the meaning of the reconciling love and forgiveness of the risen Jesus directly. The risen Lord called him and made him an apostle to the gentiles, rather than vaporizing him in vengeance for persecuting his people.

Paul’s ministry of reconciliation in the power of the risen Christ brought together Jew and gentile. It built a bridge between divided communities and cultures and helped people establish common ground.

We have no more powerful model of reconciling love than the risen Jesus himself.

Following his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples, who were huddled in fear behind locked doors (John 20). The risen Christ did chastise them or speak to them in anger.

He did not berate his disciples or prophesy their future punishment for abandoning and betraying him.

Rather, he said to them “Peace be with you.” And then he sent them out into the world to continue the work he began. In other words, he made them ministers of reconciliation, agents of his peace.

During this Easter Season as we reflect on the presence of the risen Jesus in the world and on the ministry that all Christians have in his name, let us reflect on the ministry of reconciliation to which we are all called.

Christians are called to build bridges between people, not to construct walls that divide.

We are called to help heal the world’s hurts in the name of the risen Lord, not to point fingers in anger.

We are called to follow the example of the risen Lord in the power of his risen presence.

“Peace be with you.”