Exekiel 36:22 — “…It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations.”
Romans 5:8 — “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
Our youngest grandchild is preparing to walk. This child is the first-born for her parents, so the excitement is heightened, as are most “first-time” events. There is the requisite encouragement as she stands and balances herself, first by holding onto someone or something, and then letting go to stand alone. There is the helpful urging to move toward a parent, the extended beckoning arm reaching out to offer assistance and security.
Since this is something all of us have learned personally, as well as seeing others learn it, we know that it will not happen instantaneously. There will be falls and missteps. We try to clear a path so that those falls will not be serious or dangerous. No discouraging words are spoken when the expected fall occurs. Rather there is encouragement to try again, to measure and affirm progress as it is seen.
Tradition has it a curious person once asked a monk what it is they do in the monastery. His answer was purported to be, “We take a few steps and then we fall down. Then we get up and take a step and fall down again. And then we get up…”
We might think of this getting up and walking as what those in the holiness tradition call “sanctification.” For Anabaptists, we talk about discipleship. Deliverance and justification are something that God does for us even though we don’t deserve it (cf. Ezekiel 36:22 and Romans 5:6-8). Sanctification, or a life of discipleship, is our grateful response to God’s gracious act of mercy toward us.
The further we walk, the more accomplished we get in our walking, and the more we understand and seek to embody what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 5:16-20: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ…”
Those of us who have been walking for a long time may take it for granted. We may not give it much conscious thought. But we are reminded when we see a young toddler struggling to master walking what an accomplishment it is.
If we are called to be ambassadors for Christ, to be ministers of reconciliation, it may be time for us to be reminded, as the monk was by his questioner, what it is we do. Even within the Christian community there is still much stumbling, much falling down taking place. How are we doing at getting back up and trying to walk again? How are we doing at trying to be ministers of reconciliation? After all, both Ezekiel and Paul remind us that God gave us this gift of being reconciled to our Creator even though we did not deserve it. It is for God’s name that we are called to be ministers of reconciliation. How can we get up and honor God?