Binaries and Reconciliation

cat and dog together courtesy of fun-gall.blogspot.comI’ve been thinking a lot about binaries lately, thanks to my literary theory class.  Binaries are just another name for opposites, and some of the common ones we think of are black/white, dark/light, male/female, winter/summer, to name a few.  What I’ve learned about binaries is that by studying these contrasts, we learn to differentiate between the two.  Without understanding what darkness is, we could never really know about light, and so while it might seem that we could do without winter, we would probably lack something (appreciation?) in our understanding of summer.

People (myself included) wonder why God created these opposites, as it appears that some of our greatest conflicts are due to this binary opposition, and here’s what I think:  God created opposites not only for us to better understand and differentiate the diversity of his creation, but also to show us that the Father, Son, and Spirit are big enough to encompass it all.

Not only is God big enough to hold these competing tensions but also is willing to do so, even when those binaries consist of sin/goodness or lies/truth.  Many Christians today fail to recognize how Christ is promoting the reconciliation of all things, not by eliminating the unsavory or the different but by holding all parts of creation in him, as we see in II Cor. 5:18-19:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (NIV)

Most importantly, notice that we are to do the same.  Our ministry is the message of reconciliation, not judgment, not “my way is right; your way is wrong.” Reconciliation is being able, like Christ, to hold two binaries and know that all is well because the underlying truth is that the Father, Son, and Spirit hold us all, believer/unbeliever alike.

There is a lovely hymn called “In Christ, There is No East or West” (I especially love this rendition by Mavis Staples), and its revamped lyrics go like this:

In Christ there is no East or West,
No South or North;
Only one great love 
inside and out.

True hearts everywhere

Some deaf and some blind
Singing one melody lost souls cannot find.

Join hands, and have faith

Whatever your race may be

Who serves my Father as a son
Is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West,
There is no black or white

Only one great love hatred cannot divide

Join hands, and have faith,

Forgive your enemies

Surely we are all a part of

One big family

We have been given the ministry of reconciliation, both individually and corporately as a church.  This means that we don’t need to persuade others to think as we do, but that we must participate with the Father, Son, and Spirit in comfortably holding binary oppositions, knowing that “all are a part of one big family.”

~by Nan Kuhlman

1 comment so far

  1. jkharri4 on

    WOW!! I love this. Well said!! Thank you!!


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