Peace

Tonight I had the honor of hear the Rev. Dr. Peter Storey preach. He is the former President of the Methodist Church in South Africa. The sermon was a powerful part of the opening worship for the 2008 Lake Junaluska Peace Conference.

During the sermon he shared an experience he had a few years ago as he worked with a peace and reconciliation group in South Africa. Apartheid was over and this group was supposed to work together to bring reconciliation to the country. The group was engaged in a “team building exercise” when he came face to face with the man who had been part of the secret police and was single handedly responsible for years of harassment: death threats towards the Storey family, harassing phone calls, and ticking packages left at their front door in the middle of the night – all part of this man’s work over the years.

Face to face these former enemies sat. And, they were supposed to be working on becoming part of a “team.”

Peter Storey looked at him and said, “I don’t trust you, but I’ll watch how you behave.”

That was the beginning of reconciliation within that team, and part of the reconciliation that continued throughout South Africa.

Reconciliation only means something when enemies are talking…talking with friends costs nothing, but talking with an enemy takes risk. In some scenarios it can involve physical risk while others involve emotional risk.

The work of reconciliation in South Africa is ongoing…and continues to be a testament to the work of God in our world. When we look in scripture to see what Jesus says about our enemies he says to forgive, to feed, and to give water. Sometimes we have to start with just one of those actions before we’re able to live out the Gospel fully. God’s action in this world through the saving grace of Jesus Christ is not only so that we humans might become reconciled to God, but so that we might become reconciled to one another.

I leave you with a quote from Susannah Wesley, “There are two things to do about the gospel: believe it and behave it.”