On Borders and Reconciliation

October 1, 2012

“…and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

2 Corinthians 5:19b─20 (NRSV)

The official title of one country’s representative to another is “ambassador plenipotentiary,” designating the full authority the ambassador has to represent the sending government. Being an ambassador is a life and death proposition, as we saw recently with the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Libya, a country that he helped just a few months ago secure its own freedom.

As Moderator of the 220th General Assembly (2012), I’m tasked to serve as an ambassador. It’s tough going bringing the message of reconciliation and calling factions in the church to live together in “unity with difference.”

In just two weeks, I’ve been to two borders. In Juarez, Mexico, I stood in the most dangerous neighborhood in one of the world’s most dangerous cities wracked by drug cartel violence. At the border between Juarez and El Paso, Texas, is this vivid reminder, a cross with iron nails as a visible memorial of the thousands of women who have been massacred by cartels.

Then there is this graphic painting within a women’s shelter; a portrayal of the thousands of mutilated women found near the maquiladoras (transnational corporation factories), killed by cartels, under the watching, impotent eye of government and police unwilling or unable to do anything about it.

At the 38th parallel, where North and South Korea meet, I witnessed this: A wooden plank separates the soldiers as they stare down at each other in a battle pose for two hour shifts, ready to pull out their pistols at a moment’s notice. They stand a mere few feet away from each other—and could even be brothers—but are not able to know it or speak it.

I cannot help but lament at the tragedy of borders—lines drawn—and the harm we as human beings do to one another.

Over the next few months, Vice Moderator Trinidad and I will be convening a table of progressive and conservative leaders to talk. Sadly some have declined to be a part of that table. As ambassador, I call upon all of us to heed the gospel’s message: that we have been reconciled to Christ and to one another. Let us begin the very difficult work of living into that already-accomplished reconciliation, lest we inflict further violence on the body of Christ and the witness of the gospel. I entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

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