News & Events

Nine Minutes

Blog — 5th May 2021

Nine Minutes

Over Nine minutes. That is the length of time Police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd, ending his life on a street in Minneapolis, Minnesota [1]

Nine percent. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, that is the estimated rate “of specimens testing positive for SARS-CoV-2” in the “South Central” and “Central” regions of the United States (as of 11 September 2020).[2]  

29 March 2019. “Brexit Day,” the original date the UK was scheduled to leave the EU. 

On the flip side, Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” Colossians 1:19-20 announces, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Christ] and through him to reconcile to himself all things…”, and 2 Corinthians 5:19 states, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ… And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”  

As you can see, the number nine—and its relatives nineteen and twenty-nine—can represent the racism, death, and division wracking our world. 

As you can see, the number nine—and its relatives nineteen and twenty-nine—can represent the racism, death, and division wracking our world. 

Interestingly, the same numbers can also point to our great Reconciler Jesus and the message of reconciliation Christians proclaim and embody as “Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Cor 5:20). 

What does that look like?

First, let’s start with a definition. Reconciling is repairing or mending a broken relationship. It promotes forgiveness, healing, and peace amidst alienation, hostility, and brokenness. Theologically speaking, reconciliation is the gospel: that is, it is the heart of the triune God’s story and plan to redeem and renew “all things” (see Matt 19:28ff and Revelation 21–22). Thus the scope of reconciliation is cosmic (Col 1:20: “all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven”), societal (think of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa seeking restorative justice in the aftermath of apartheid), for the universal Church (a reconciled community between Jews and Gentiles, Eph 2:11–22) and for individuals (e.g., a row between two siblings).  

Second, it’s crucial to identify and take stock of the many chasms and divides in our world. Here’s a sample: Conservative vs. Labour, Democrat vs. Republican, Stay vs. Leave, citizen vs. immigrant, Man City vs. Man United (or Liverpool F.C. versus everyone else?!?), to name a few. If you want to find a division, locate the place of heat, friction, or noise: Where is the temperature spiking? Where is the clamour coming from? Resolve to acknowledge and enter those spaces.

Third, it may be helpful to think of peacemaking and reconciling as similar to building a bridge. According to www.visitlondon.com, London is famous for its iconic bridges, such as Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Millennium Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, Vauxhall Bridge, etc. (The site lists twenty-three bridges—wow!) Each bridge connects two different places. 

God calls us to engage and connect individuals or groups/parties who are estranged and seek to bring them toward each other or perhaps to just acknowledge each other.

Likewise, God calls us to engage and connect individuals or groups/parties who are estranged and seek to bring them toward each other or perhaps to just acknowledge each other. Let me illustrate. I am a pastor. On many occasions, when a married couple has a significant row—there’s a communication breakdown or some impasse—one of the spouses will reach out and ask me to intervene and initiate a rapprochement. I usually agree (albeit with loads of fear, trembling, and desperate prayers!) because I understand that sometimes people need a mediator, someone from the outside, to reestablish communication and goodwill.

At this point, you may be wondering, “I want to be a reconciler and bridge-builder. Where do I begin?” Let me make two suggestions. First, find other Christians who are different from you and regularly pray with them—whether online or in-person (assuming it’s legal and prudent to do so). I started doing this back on 9th of July. Every Thursday at 3 pm, a group of Christians is praying in front of the city hall where I live (Newport, Rhode Island, USA). We are diverse in race, age, sex, socioeconomic status, and theological distinctives. Thus far, we’ve had people from at least ten different churches participate. We call ourselves Blessed Be Newport County. We plan to gather every Thursday (through the beginning of November) to pray through Jesus’s eight Beatitudes found in Matthew 5. While we have various opinions and life experiences, we share a commitment to the teachings of Jesus, the power of prayer, and public safety (we wear masks and socially-distance). We recognize that while we cannot personally solve the many problems bedeviling our nation, we can pursue the God who can. We’re also convinced prayer is vital to publicly demonstrate the unity and diversity within God’s kingdom and embody a hopeful witness. 

Second, initiate a constructive conversation. Reach out to someone who looks, thinks, acts, and perceives the world differently from you. Ask great questions: about their story, passions, hopes, frustrations, etc. Then attentively listen to what that person shares. Follow the old maxim, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” By the way, listening does not equate to agreeing to or affirming their positions or beliefs. If presented the opportunity to share your reflections on a given topic, do so with humility and respect. This kind of exchange creates environments where people can find areas of common ground. In the very least, you are honoring the other person’s worth, as one made in the image of God. 

If you are still unsure as to how to commence, set aside nine minutes. Spend that time ruminating on Matthew 5:9, Colossians 1:19, and 2 Corinthians 5:19. Then pray and ask God’s living Spirit to steer you in the right direction. It could change your life and the world around you. 

Paul Hoffman graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Manchester/Nazarene Theological College in 2017 and is now Senior Pastor of Evangelical Friends Church of Newport, RI. (USA). He is the author of the new book “Reconciling Places” which is available below:

Reconciling places

[1] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2021/03/30/us/derek-chauvin-george-floyd-kneel-9-minutes-29-seconds.amp.html

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/index.html