The Ministry Of Reconciliation
Notes on the Christian's mission February 1944
The following article was first printed in the February 1944 issue of the Bible Study Monthly when the U.K. was still experiencing frequent bombing and the rest of the world were at war. Yet the writer of this article and his colleagues were looking forward to their future work in Christ's kingdom.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor.5:18)
There is grave danger that we Christians shall be shamed by the kingdoms of this world. At this present time both Britain and America are methodically selecting suitable men to be administrators and officials in the occupied and subjugated territories at the end of the war. This, of course, is in the expectation that the war will result in military victory for the Allied nations. Likely men are called before selection panels and closely questioned as to their technical qualifications for the work in view. But this is not sufficient; they must also satisfy their examiners as to their general education and knowledge, the breadth of their mental outlook, their qualities of character. They are requested to describe their hobbies and leisure interests, the games and sports in which they excel, the public or social service to which they may have given time and energy in the past. In short, every care is being taken to secure men who will be fitted by training and character to supervise the work of reconstruction and education which is to be undertaken in Central Europe when the conflict is over.
Now, we in our fellowship know that these plans are doomed to disappointment. Excellent though the intention may be, it remains that the new edifice is intended to be built upon the old foundation of man's self‑sufficiency; and man is not self‑sufficient. "Except the Lord build the house; they labour in vain that build it." If these men, all of them, could add to their otherwise doubtless excellent qualifications a whole‑hearted consecration to the service of Jesus Christ and an intelligent knowledge of His teaching, there might be some hope; but the candidates are not questioned to any extent upon their religious convictions and activities; these are not regarded as of first‑class importance.
We believe—or profess to believe that civilisation is heading for disaster, and that after that disaster comes the Kingdom of God upon earth under the spiritual rulership of Jesus Christ the King. We generally accept the view that the establishment of this Kingdom—an event within measurable distance, to be reckoned perhaps in decades—is to witness the instalment into office of a body of trained and prepared spiritual administrators for the purpose of world conversion. That is the truth underlying Scripture references to the reign of Christ and His Church over the world. We say we are members of His Church. The question inevitably arises: "Shall we be fit for the work when the time comes? Are we so ordering our lives now that we are receiving the necessary experience to qualify us for the high duties of the future?
Technical knowledge is not sufficient. We are, most of us, keenly alive to the necessity of faith in the Scriptures and a thorough knowledge of the principles therein outlined. But if the net result of our studies is to produce a company of amateur theologians who can agree neither with outsiders nor even between themselves, our time has been wasted. We shall require, not only a sound grounding in the principles of God's plan of salvation and the laws of the incoming Kingdom, but also that depth of vision and breadth of experience which comes only from a lifetime spent in the profession and practice of the Sermon on the Mount. We need to know and sympathise with the sufferings, the temptations, the failings, as well as the well‑nigh inarticulate aspirations, of sin‑sick humanity, and we can gain that knowledge only in the way that Jesus did—by living amongst them and ministering to them. We have no need to join in the world's schemes of reform—they are doomed to failure anyway—but we have great need to go out and preach good tidings to the meek, to bind up the broken‑hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and comfort all that mourn. Only thus shall we be ever fitted for the infinitely greater work of the future, when God calls all the nations before Him.
One wonders how we would fare if a Divine selection panel was set up here and now, and we were called in one by one for questioning. The technical examination we in our circle might pass with flying colours—we can most of us expound the philosophy of the Atonement to our own entire satisfaction, and describe in well‑turned language the precise meaning of the visions of Revelation. But suppose the Examiner turned to deeper questions of the heart, and probed into the manner we have manifested Him to our brethren and to others, how we have maintained the unity which is the hallmark of discipleship, how we have made known His teaching to those around us, preached to the castaways, comforted the suffering, preserved the sheep of His pasture, one wonders just how we would fare. One might come out from that Gracious Presence feeling far less smug and self‑satisfied than when he went in.
And that might not altogether be a bad thing!