In my post regarding salvation I had some things to say regarding this next term in my lexicon, reconciliation. Specifically, I made note that we tend to confuse the two terms, and they are actually different things: reconciliation being a one time event that applies universally (literally: not just to all people, but to the cosmos), and salvation being more of a process with a different purpose. You can review that if you’d like, but I think there are still some more important things to be said about this thing called reconciliation, so here goes.
Let me start with a passage from Colossians:
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— (1:19-22)
This begins with where our discussion from Romans 5 left off: reconciliation is a one time event, happened on the cross, and applies universally. I mentioned that I waffle back and forth between wondering if there really was a rift between people and God that needed healing, or we just thought there was, and that I leaned toward the latter. Here is part of the reason that I do: the author specifically says we were enemies of God in our minds. It was all in our heads. This affirms what I have come to believe, that there really is no way to actually be an enemy of God. I take to heart what Scripture says, that God is the one “in whom we live and move and have our being,” (Acts 17:28), a phrase that in that context Paul applies to all humans. Also, that God is “over all and through and in all” (Eph. 4:6). All people, in fact everything that exists, are/is not just a creation of, or a reflection of God, but a manifestation of God. God is not separated from themselves, requiring a blood sacrifice of themselves to ”get back into a right relationship” with themselves.
There’s a lot more I could say about that, but I want to save that discussion for next time when I get to the really juicy issue of original sin. For now I want to move on to the fact that, although I don’t think reconciliation applies to something that has to happen to make me good with God again because I’ve been so naughty, I do think the term has a positive meaning that really does apply to me. Here let me bring Paul back in (the Colossians passage may or may not have been him, but that’s another topic), from 2 Corinthians:
…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. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (19,20)
Once again Paul affirms that the whole cosmos has been reconciled to God, none of us need to worry about sins or how they may affect our standing before God. And yet he goes on to implore us, even though we are reconciled to God, to be reconciled to God. What the heck?!? To me, this has to do with the underlying meaning of this term. It doesn’t really mean to get back into a right relationship that’s been soured, like estranged spouses reconciling. It literally means to exchange places, in fact it originally referred to an exchange of currency. To reconcile with someone in this sense is to be so identified with them that you could literally change places and achieve the same results. You’re both working toward the same objectives and attempting to accomplish the same things for the same reasons in the same ways. Together you are aligned with the same game plan. Whatever else happened on the cross, then, it was probably the most extreme example of the pattern God has set up for us to align ourselves with in order to be “reconciled,” or aligned with, the redemptive plan for creation. It is kenosis, self-emptying, for the sake of others. I return again and again to what may be the oldest writing contained in the Scriptures and what is increasingly the most foundational for me from Philippians:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death--
even death on a cross! (2:1-8)
Stop stressing out about having to be reconciled to God because you’ve been estranged due to your reprobate behavior. Chill out. Be cool.
Start devoting yourself to treating others the way you want to be treated, putting their interests ahead of your’s, and making the sacrifices required to really act that out. Be kind.
That is what it means to me to be reconciled to God.