The Holy Ministry of Reconciliation
Most Christians I know are kind, loving, considerate, caring and helpful. I believe very few in the church think of themselves as unkind. I don’t think you can be a true Christian and be unkind.
When we think of kind people, our image is of quiet, soft-spoken men and women who never seem to say a negative word about anyone. They are sweet and gentle, always willing to do something for another person, always carrying a kind word on their lips.
These are all wonderful attributes. This type of kindness, however—the kind most Christians practice—is very passive. It also is very limited in its actions. In truth, it falls far short of the kindness to which the Bible calls us.
I want to look at a different type of kindness: aggressive kindness. Aggression has bold intentions. It moves forward, taking initiative. Kindness that is aggressive moves forward boldly in love.
This is true of the kindness that the Bible commands us to show. It is aggressive. It cannot be passive nor can it be contained in the heart. It is about more than just good, loving thoughts and prayers for others.
Passage after passage makes clear that our kindness must be aggressive. Paul wrote, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:17-18, NKJV). We take this to mean, “I won’t hurt anyone back. It doesn’t matter what they say about me; I won’t speak ill of them. I won’t take any revenge.”
This sounds good, but note that it is all passive. Most Christians are satisfied to live this passive brand of kindness. This very same passage in Romans goes on to call for aggressive action, quoting Proverbs 25:21-22: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head” (Romans 12:20-21).
All of this action is aggressive, on the offensive. There is nothing defensive or passive about it.
If your enemy, your persecutor, is a Christian, you cannot practice passive kindness.
Passive kindness says, “I’ve forgiven my sister in the Lord. I’ll pray for her, but let her stay away from me. As long as she leaves me alone, everything will be just fine. Let her go her way, and I’ll go mine.”
Jesus speaks of active love. “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For he is kind to the unthankful and evil” (Luke 6:35). Here is the key to aggressive kindness. It is more than simply praying for your enemies and removing vengefulness from your heart. It is about actively seeking to do good to them.
Yes, there is a danger when you choose to act with aggressive kindness. Paul told the Corinthians, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2 Corinthians 12:15). It’s true that we always seem to be hurt most by those we’ve helped. Those closest to us have the capacity to injure us the worst.
When you experience this kind of rejection, you naturally feel like withdrawing into a shell. You tell yourself, “I’ll never let myself be hurt again. I’m drawing the line right here.”
Moses says the opposite. He provides us with a very unusual example of aggressive kindness through this command to ancient Israel: “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it” (Exodus 23:4-5).
Your “enemy” is someone who has hurt you, slandered you, joined with others in defaming you. Now you’re walking down the road when you see this enemy’s donkey faltering. You know that donkey is his source of income, as valuable to him as a car would be to us today. That donkey literally means food for your enemy’s family.
What should you do? Scripture says if you’re a man or woman of God, you don’t stand there gloating. Rather, you go to your enemy to help him with the donkey. “You shall surely bring it back to him…you shall surely help him with it” (Exodus 23:4-5). In other words, “Jump in, and help your enemy!” The image here is of two people sweating under a common burden, an act that will bring about reconciliation.
Your act of aggressive kindness may help stop the war in your enemy’s soul.
The cross of Christ is the epitome of aggressive kindness. Aren’t you glad God’s Word isn’t passive in saying, “For God so loved the world...” (John 3:16)? Aren’t you glad the Lord took the bold step of coming to us in our evil and taking upon himself the burden of reconciling us?
Likewise, the ministry of reconciliation we’re called to fulfill happens through acts of forceful kindness. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
You cannot act with true biblical kindness until you have put on the “new man” of which Paul speaks. “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of him who created him” (Colossians 3:9-10).
Jesus gave us a command to show aggressive kindness that few of us are willing to face up to.
Moffet translates Matthew 5:22-24 as follows: “Whoever maligns his brother (in Christ) shall come up before the Sanhedrin...whoever curses his brother shall go to the fires of Gehenna (hell)...But I tell you, whoever is angry with his brother without cause will be sentenced by God. So if you remember, even when offering your gift at the altar, that your brother has any grievance against you, leave your gift at the altar and go away, and first be reconciled to your brother, then come back and offer your gift...”
The brother who is commanded to take the initiative toward reconciliation is the one kneeling at the altar, the one busy ministering to the Lord. If he knows if he has something against his brother, he is not to continue worshiping. Instead, he is to stop all his religious activity and get in touch with the one he has something against. He must seek to be reconciled.
If I can weep for dying, lost souls all over the world, I had better consider also my brother or sister whom I have not forgiven. I must swallow my pride and my sense of being right and say, “I don’t care who’s right or wrong. It doesn’t matter. I am going to be aggressive in my kindness because of Jesus.”
I cannot go about my business for God, waiting for my enemy to come to me. Jesus commands me to stop everything, go to them and seek reconciliation. I have to do something, either through a letter, a call or a word through a mutual friend, some definite, active, bold, aggressive act of kindness.
If I am not received, it matters not. I have done what the Lord has commanded.
Is there someone in your life who may continue in sin without an act of insistent kindness from you?
When we go before the throne of judgment, do you want to see your enemy and know that you took no action on his behalf?
You have to be free to live, worship and praise, and that comes through seeking reconciliation. If you take aggressive steps of kindness in love for your enemy, you will be blessed and honored before God and men. God’s Word promises this, and you will live glorified with Christ forever. Amen!