What did reconciliation look like in the early church?

Reconciliation seems like it’s a flavor of the month word in American evangelical Christianity today, but as early as the Didache (first century), reconciliation (on the interpersonal level) was a required practice to attend early church meetings! Can you imagine what today’s church would be like if we took this practice seriously? I know of pastors who need to reconcile with other pastors. It seems to me very problematic that we are more prone to schism even in our churchgoing than understanding that without a deeper sense of reconciliation, we have little right to approach the throne of God at all.

Even in the early Catholic church, the practice of reconciliation was deemed a sacrament. Now granted, it is more popularly conceived of as confession and penance, but still, how did something central to the Christian life become so peripheral to evangelical practice? I know the answer could be really dismissive, as in the Catholic clergy abused the right to absolution and whatnot, but I wonder if without the practice of reconciliation (and let’s be honest, it does take quite a bit of practice), we’ve all been allowed to indulge ourselves in a sense of egocentricism that has been hard to recover from.

It makes me wonder why as evangelicals are waking up to social action and community development, we are always finding that Catholic charities and community groups have already set up camp and been there for a long time. Granted, we can critique them theologically and question their notion of atonement, but what does it say about us that we want to recover the orthodoxy of the early church without the practices of the early church?

And what does it say about our inability to work together and mend fences when we dismiss reconciliation so quickly? I think it was fine when the West was wild and untamed, but now in this day and age, there is nowhere to run. We must begin to push inward to the boundaries that have kept us apart, not look for new places to set up camp. Or perhaps we shouldn’t go to church until we take reconciliation seriously. If we take the Bible seriously, shouldn’t we also take reconciliation seriously?

About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come. View all posts by David Park

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