Matthew 9:10-13 (NRSV)
10 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Christians often view Lent as a time of giving up certain comforts in order to reflect on Christ’s ultimate giving up of his life on the cross. Yet Christ’s giving up is not only one of the cross, but an attitude that he demonstrated throughout his entire ministry. Christ gave up privilege throughout his ministry by associating with “tax collectors and sinners” and suffering scorn from the authorities. He gave up material comfort, security, and power during his temptations in the wilderness. Christ reconciled all things to God, and that reconciliation came at a cost.
Yet in conversations about reconciliation in our churches today, the cost of reconciliation is often left out of our language. We hold visions of what reconciliation will look like in our communities, but we must also consider what goes beyond “sacrifice” as viewed in popular Lenten culture. We must strive towards true reconciliation and not a thin layer of civility.
What is the cost of reconciliation? Reconciliation itself is an economic term that means to repay a loss in some way. It requires deep and painful conversations from both parties. But it may require even more sacrifice than emotional vulnerability. It may require a material cost – the cost of property that a church in the South returns to the descendants of enslaved people. It may require a reputational cost – the cost of a public apology and continual affirmations of that apology to reestablish trust. These are only examples and not the answers to every situation – the cost of reconciliation will look different across communities with particular losses and needs.
During this season of Lent, let us be willing to give up not only the comforts contained in our individual lives, but also what our communities might have to give up in order to be reconciled with our siblings in Christ. The CFR is committed to facilitating dialogue and resources that allow communities to address the cost of reconciliation.
If you would like to participate in making this work possible, please consider making a gift at this link, attending one of our events, or praying for us.
Grace and Peace,
Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School