On this day in 1983, the Challenger space shuttle blasted off on her maiden voyage from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On the same mission, astronauts Donald Peterson and F.S. “Story” Musgrave performed the first spacewalk of the shuttle program. In addition, the Challenger mission saw the deployment of the first communications satellite in the Tracking and Data Relay System (TDRS).
Just two months after its inaugural mission, Challenger launched the first American woman, Sally Ride, into space. On this six-day voyage, Ride tested a robot arm which she helped design.
Being first is something most of us enjoy. We want to be the first to wear the latest fashion. We want to be the first to buy the newest electronic gizmo. We want to be first in line at the cafeteria after church.
Jesus said that Christians should be the first in reconciliation. Before we drop our check into the offering plate, we should go to a brother who has a grudge against us. Before we take Holy Communion, we should call an estranged sister and try to win her back. Going to church is not as important as being the church, offering forgiveness to those who have wronged us and asking for forgiveness from those we have wronged. God values relationship over ritual (Matthew 5:23-24).
Our model, of course, is Jesus. He was the first and only to offer himself up for the sins of the world—indeed, the only one who could do so. The shadow of the cross, ever-lengthening during Lent, is a reminder of this costly reconciliation. Because of his obedience to bridge the great divide between God and humanity, Jesus became the firstborn from the dead, “that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).
Reconciliation is not just a nice thing to do. It is a commandment from Christ himself, that we might raise relationships from the dead. Being the first to get the latest car or TV is nothing compared to winning back a brother or sister.