“And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’” (Zechariah 13:6 KJV)
What is true reconciliation? Some think of it as balancing a checkbook, others a husband and wife making up, still others overcoming the issues of discrimination and prejudice in our culture. While all of these reflect pieces of reconciliation, the Messianic prophecy above causes us to go deeper. It carries with it a sense of deep suffering to restore a friendship. The Messiah considered the wounds He received to have been received from His friends.
- Many New Testament references convey this idea:
- “Greater love has no man … than to lay down his life for his friends (Jn. 15:13);
- “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God…” (Rom. 5:10);
- “in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both in one body to God through the cross” (Eph. 2:15b-16a).
- And, St. Paul says that “God, … reconciled us to HImself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-19).
In times of war, terrorism, family traumas, pressures over competition to keep or find a job, temptations abound to blame the “other” as the problem in order to secure ourselves. Instead of seeing an enemy as a friend who doesn’t realize this yet, social and political solutions are often presented as the rationale for demonizing the other and excusing ourselves. Fr. Seraphim Rose often reduced the choice of a Christian as “saving our soul or saving our skin.”
As Christians, we follow the Messiah Jesus in seeing the other as our friend. Like St. Paul taking the debts of Onesimus as his own in Philemon, v. 18; or the Good Samaritan assuming the debt of the robbed and wounded man in Luke 10:35, so, we that are “strong ought to bear the weaknesses of them without strength and not just please ourselves” (Rom. 15:1 NAS).
Such a way is reflected in an event in the life of an early Christian, Paulinus the Merciful, Bishop of Nola, Italy. The only son of a widow under his care was taken as a slave by pirates. Having nothing with which to pay the ransom, he traded himself as a slave for the boy. He worked as a gardener for the pirates and eventually won their favor and was able to restore as well all the captives from Nola!
The refusal to pay back evil for evil, to turn the other cheek, to exhibit long-suffering are signs of the Christian on the Cross. There we are invited to join our Lord in His prayer, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). Of the Cross, it is written, “Thou hast stretched out Thy most pure hands upon the Cross, and gathered all the nations, as they cry: O Lord, glory to Thee!” (Troparion, Sixth Hour of Royal Hours for Holy Friday).
Seeing the end from the beginning enables us to overlook and forgive much. We see the other as they are in Christ: an icon of God, an eternal brother or sister, a co-heir of peace, joy and the communion of love for ages to come. For this reason, we respond to violence with veneration, to slander with silence, and to crushing words with creative love. Why? Because we are followers of Him that declared, “he that does not gather with Me, scatters” (Mt. 12:30).
On the corner of 31st and Troost Avenue, people are gathering … to Christ and one another. May He that stretched out His arms on the Cross to gather us all into One enable us to share with Him in this ministry of gathering, of reconciliation, of venerating the other we encounter each day as the friend of Christ, the icon of God.
Article by Fr. Alexii Altschul, Reconciliation Services Founder