“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” – 2 Cor 5:18
What is it really all about anyway, this gospel thing? This good news. This day of love, Valentine’s Day, is celebrated all over the world as a time for lovers to give each other decadent gifts of jewelry, flowers and chocolate (ooh how I love dark chocolate). God so loved the world that he gave… for what purpose? To be reconciled with the beloved pinnacle of his creation… us. You and me. But what is the true meaning of reconciliation?
The Greek words translated as “reconciled” and “reconciliation” speak of returning to favour or being restored to a place in relationship where you now have the favour of someone with whom you previously did not have favour. The other meaning implies restoring of balance or fairness as in a financial transaction that is settled justly between two parties. So combining the two together, you are reconciled to someone when a just settlement has been reached and favour has been restored in the relationship.
How then did this occur between us and God? How were we reconciled to him? When we went through a process of recognizing our true condition (sin – separated from God), confessing Jesus sacrifice on our behalf for the errors of our previous direction (through Christ) and repenting (turned from our previous direction and walked in a new direction). This resulted in the visible manifestation of the forgiveness from God through the simultaneous restoration of favour with him and a settlement of what we owe him (through Jesus paying our share). Reconciliation. This is the intent of God’s desire for us. It is the purpose of the expression of love. Put another way, it is the why of love.
There are a myriad of things to discern about this which could be reflected upon. However, what seems especially relevant in these times is that reconciliation is very much a process and that forgiveness and reconciliation are two very different things. Our sins have been forgiven (past tense) but we are not reconciled until we go through a very deliberate process. This is not only true of our relationship with God but also with each other. Forgiveness is instantaneous. Reconciliation is a process. Many times Jesus said “Your sins are forgiven” (instant) – Mark 2:5, Luke 5:20, Luke 7:48 However, we are exhorted to “Be reconciled to God” (process) – 2 Cor 5:20
Unfortunately, in the current cultural emphasis of grace in the body of Christ there would appear to be much confusion about this distinction, especially between individuals. There is often an assumption that when forgiveness (instant) occurs that reconciliation (process) also occurs. How often have you heard “I said I was sorry if my xyz behaviour hurt you. If you forgave me then our relationship should now be restored.” What this individual is really saying is that they want to be back in favour with you and for all accounts to be settled without going through the reconciliation process. This is not possible without each step being walked through and recognized by both parties:
1. Recognition of the truth (our true condition before God or each other).
2. Confession of the truth (our true condition and previous behaviour)
3. Repentance (turning from our previous behaviour and walking in a new direction)
All of these steps will have fruit (visible evidence) which enables the process. Without these steps there can be no reconciliation with God or between individuals. Forgiveness – yes. Reconciliation – no.
In a future blog we will further explore the meaning of reconciliation through examples from scripture to see this process in action. For now, a toast to the three steps of reconciliation!
John and Katherine Matthews