Evangelism for Reconciliation 

Christ is risen!

Truly He is risen! 

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.  (Acts 10:44-11:10)

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The Apostles were taken by surprise that God would send His Holy Spirit upon Gentiles.  Like most of their fellow Jews, they considered the Gentiles as sinners, heretics, enemies, the damned.  This was based on their own long history, experience, their understanding of the Torah and all the Scriptures.  However, they were learning how the resurrection changed everything including the relationship between Jews and Christians.  Now in Christ those who formerly were enemies are now brothers and sisters.  For all Christians we have to reconsider our relationships with everyone – we all suffer from our sinfulness and our sins, we all are in need of God’s forgiveness and salvation, and therefore we all are brothers and sisters in need of God’s mercies.

We are commanded to have only one enemy, the devil.  With him never be reconciled!  But with a brother, never be at enmity in your heart. [St John Chrysostom]

It is a fearful thing to hate whom God has loved.  To look upon another—his weaknesses, his sins, his faults, his defects—is to look upon one who is suffering.  He is suffering from negative passions, from the same sinful human corruption from which you yourself suffer.  This is very important: do not look upon him with the judgmental eyes of comparison, noting the sins you assume you would never commit. Rather, see him as a fellow sufferer, a fellow human being who is in need of the very healing of which you are in need.  Help him, love him, pray for him, do unto him as you would have him do unto you.  [St Tikhon of Zadonsk]    (Jim Forest, FOR THE PEACE FROM ABOVE, p 114)

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In the life of St Jacob of Alaska, we read that his evangelism resulted in former enemies being reconciled and embracing each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Establishing his headquarters in the Yup’ik Eskimo village of Ikogmiute (today’s ‘Russian Mission’) he traveled to native settlements hundreds of miles up and down Alaska’s longest river (the Yukon) as well as the Kuskokwim River region. At the insistence of Indian leaders, he traveled as far as the middle of the Innoko River baptizing hundreds of Indians from various, and often formerly hostile, tribes. “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps 133:1).

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Reconciling people, not dividing them, is the goal of Christianity.  Think about Jesus’s rebuke of His disciples who had a nationalistic hatred of the Samaritans and felt they were slighted by the Samaritans and so justified in condemning them:

And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; but the people would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.  (Luke 9:52-56)