How can we best show suffering or disenfranchised people that we really see them? In the simple act of looking someone in the eyes and telling them “I see you”, you are doing a redemptive and reconciling act. If that is a person who is suffering, then you call them back into an encounter with another image bearer of God, recognizing the image of God in them. I pastor 3,200 people who live at the very same address. Eight hundred and eighteen families who live in an apartment community. This type of ministry is led by faith leaders all over the nation who are on an assignment by God to restore hope, to reconcile people who have been passed over and the sorrowful, carrying burdens passed down from one generation to the next and who feel that this is as good as it gets.

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. – 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NIV)

The approach of reconciliation is a style that gets us into the lives of those whom we serve. The lifestyle of reconciliation is one that allows us to bring people back to a knowledge of their own self value and their self-worth. When you look at someone and say, “I see you”, there are cultures and ethnicities that will not look at you in the eye because they have not been given permission to look in the eyes of another. We’re not just an “encounter then leave” ministry but we continue on a longer-term path to reconcile and heal ancient wounds that have come down through the generations. As we encounter individuals with the goal in mind of reconciliation, we must continue on that life path together.

We have to cultivate reconciliation. One does not just happen to find themselves living a lifestyle of reconciliation. This means we must invest in aiding in the transformation of the lives of those we encounter, giving them more skills themselves. We touch the broken people in every layer of the problem and the layers are so deep that this requires a time investment. We must stay long enough to get though the layers. It is here that the rebuilding of lives occurs.

When multiple people in a community allow themselves to go through reconciliation, the community changes. This is long-term change. It is not an outside person coming in. It is the community healing from the inside out. People who live the lifestyle of reconciliation are champions raised up in the community that think differently and reclaim their community and call it home, setting different standards of how anyone would conduct business on their home turf.

Do not do this because you feel that it is a nice thing to do. You will burn out. Yet, if you do it because God has called you to it, to sit down in the middle of the community, you will have to be one who is willing to change yourself. You will be one who is following in obedience to God. Is God calling you to see deeper into these places? This is a long-term process. It’s not clean, but it is good, redeeming and reflective work.

Joy Johnson is the Senior Pastor and Founder of Higher Hope Christian Church