Be reconciled

Photo by adamr. Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by adamr. Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

I confess: I sometimes cry at movies. I get caught up in the stories and characters, the losses and heartache. But I’ve noticed a pattern: the scenes that strike the deepest chord in me are scenes of reconciliation, when people set aside their anger and resentment, however justified it may be, and embrace one another in forgiveness and love.

Abstractly, reconciliation is a beautiful idea, something on the order of “world peace.” But in this day of broken marriages, racial injustice, and corporate greed, is it realistic? Or does it only happen in the movies?

Perhaps we could answer this way: from a worldly point of view, it may not be “realistic.” But from God’s point of view, it’s reality. And the question for those who are in Christ is this: will we live according to God’s reality, or the world’s?

As we’ve seen in the previous two posts, God is the one who has taken the initiative to reach across the gap and reconcile the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19). In consequence, Paul knows himself to be reconciled to God and charged with the vocation of bearing the message of reconciliation to others.

“Reconciliation”: we usually think of it as bringing together those who have been estranged or separated. But the origin of Paul’s word suggests something more like a “change” or even an “exchange” of status, as when enemies become friends. Indeed, there is a mysterious exchange at the heart of what God did in Christ:

God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21, CEB)

Somehow, on the cross, Jesus the obedient and sinless Son of God took on our sin; in exchange, we received his righteousness.

One way to understand this is in terms of what is known as “imputed” righteousness: in a sense, God not only refused to justly debit our moral account for our sin (5:19), he also credited us with the righteousness of Christ.

But this is more than just a business or legal transaction, a merciful cancelling of old debts. There is a larger purpose, a grander story: the old things have passed away, and God is making all things new (5:17). God has reconciled us to him so that we can be fit for his new creation. He wants us to “become the righteousness of God,” to live in newness.

And what does a righteous God do? He reconciles.

Be reconciled, Paul urges the Corinthians (5:20); don’t let the grace you received be in vain (6:1). Their resistance to him is symptomatic of resistance to God. With the authority of God’s ambassador or prophet, he could take an imperious stance: be reconciled, or else.

Instead, he pleads with them: I beg you, don’t put it off. Marvel at what God has done, at what he is still doing. Come back to your senses. Don’t let the wonderful work of reconciliation by which God saved you go to waste.

You might imagine all kinds of psychological reasons why I cry at movies. And you may be right. Indeed, I have a few theories of my own. But I like to think that part of the reason is that somehow, wordlessly, I sense that reconciliation is what God wants for our entire sorry but precious world. For you, for me, for us. Reconciliation resonates with the deepest longings of my spirit.

And, I hope, yours. Today is the day. Be reconciled.