Reconciliation as Refuge

Reconciliation as Refuge

Posted on in Peace-Building / Conflict Resolution, Refugees.

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Last Monday afternoon in Vickery Meadows, the refugee-center of Dallas, something was made very clear to me: simply put, true peace is found in the pursuit of reconciliation. That reconciliation is not an event, but rather a journey we enter into completely broken and in hope of becoming something or someone completely new. It is a lifetime of experiences where we choose to see people as God has created them – in his image and with a universal dignity and value.

That Monday afternoon, I was driving away from my office with two new friends, Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart. Jon and Jer had come in from California to teach our team (Seek the Peace) about ‘Peacemaking as the mission of God.’ As we drove deeper into the heart of Vickery Meadow, we found ourselves in the midst of several hundred high school students who had just been let out of class for the day. As we arrived at the busy intersection, we realized that in the center of this mass of teenagers was a violent conflict in the making. Two distinct groups – on one side, African Americans and on the other Burmese refugees – were in the process of spiraling into armed violence against each other. Both groups were feeling threatened and failing to see the imago Dei, dignity and value in the other.

As ministers of reconciliation, our Jesus-like response is to enter into the conflict of others and to seek their peace – their holistic repair or shalom (Ps. 34:14.) So, after a full day of learning about God’s mission of peace in the world, this is exactly what we attempted to do. We left the car at the stop light, entered the chaos and pursued each party. Both groups had taken over the street taunting and swearing the others demise. I remember seeing an aluminum bat, Nunchucks and a taser. All this was swirling around in the middle of an intersection filled with people and cars stopped and staring, with students on the street yelling and crowding. This was the raw reality of pain and brokenness on display for all to witness. A display like this comes when an essential element of life is missing: hope.

The rest of this story is actually just the beginning. Our response led us to come face to face with each group, speak truth to them and with urgency lead them into a place of pause. I say pause and not peace as these groups neither understand their own value and worth nor the opposing group’s. Each group was acting out of their own brokenness, acting from a place of hurt, fear and pain. From their posture, words and weapons, it is clear that each group’s social and cultural understanding of the other had kept them from truly seeing the intrinsic value and image of God of their opponent. Therefore, this pause was simply a temporary cessation of violence, rather than a decision to pursue peace.

When we see broken identities and take them at face value as the total worth or encompassing value of a person or group, we have failed to see what God sees. We have failed to see through the lens of Jesus, who is actually making peace. Jesus is actively seeing the image of God in creation, transcending broken social and cultural identities and turning enemies into friends and family. This is the commission to Jesus-followers and the job description of ministers of reconciliation. To miss seeing one’s enemy rightly is to miss the point of the work of Jesus altogether.

I have missed this point too many times. In fact, I often prefer to miss this point. Seeing and then pursuing my enemy is not comfortable; in fact, it is costly. Leaving our intentionally created spaces seems counterintuitive. But isn’t that the logic of Jesus? For the sake of those who were at odds with him, Jesus leaves his place of comfort, crosses his borders and sacrifices everything for his enemies. The logic of Jesus is to bring “Peace on Earth” through the unadulterated pursuit of his enemies. In his peace, Jesus steps into our conflict for the sake of our flourishing. This is our salvation and the way or model of all those in Christ to act in our given spaces.

Peace and reconciliation, or the repair of our heart, mind, relationships, families, and communities, is a journey to be lived day-in and day-out. We are the “Salt of the World” as we step into the world’s brokenness seeking its peace. Jesus in Matthew 5 teaches: “blessed are the peacemakers.” In the words of my friends Jon and Jer, this is not Jesus blessing peace-thinkers or peace-wanters – this is blessing those who are pursuing the making and re-making of peace in the midst of enemies and strangers.

The work ahead of building-up the true identity of those two conflicted groups in Vickery Meadow is long and costly. It is long because transformation of the heart and mind can be slow. It is costly because immersing into spaces of brokenness, contending for the flourishing of one’s enemy, all for the hope of restoration is not a single act done with convenience. In fact, stepping into brokenness is highly inconvenient and takes a great deal of personal sacrifice.

What happens from here is the beginning of the journey of reconciliation. It is the starting point where strangers and enemies journey together toward a different way of living. A way of living brought to bear by those whose life is a sacrifice for the flourishing of a neighbor, stranger or even an enemy. At this point, one begins to see beyond the assumed identity of the other, to see and transcend the social and cultural identities of brokenness and to begin to see that all people are created in God’s image.

As ministers of reconciliation, I encourage you to follow Jesus into the conflict and brokenness that is all around you. The places of brokenness you find yourself may not be as obvious as a street fight, but when we begin to see as Jesus did, the cloak of broken social and cultural identities will start to dissolve. From work, to home, to war-zones, the world is hurting, broken and in desperate need of the peace of Jesus. When we choose to see this we have the opportunity to seek the peace of those in pain and journey with them toward the hope of becoming a new creation.

Points of Reflection:

1. Do I see strangers and enemies as bearing the image of God?
2. How am I allowing broken social or cultural identities to keep me from loving my neighbor and enemy?
3. What are the places of brokenness around me?
4. What would it look like to enter into the conflict or brokenness around me?

Find our more about the work of Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart at
The Global Immersion Project here: GlobalImmerse.org