One of the common themes in the Bible, and in particular with Paul, is the idea of reconciliation. Simply put, reconciliation is the restoration of a relationship between people or groups who are on the outs. Reconciliation is getting our connections back after they’ve been torn asunder. Reconciliation is taking the necessary steps to get balance back between people and groups who have let their ideology take precedence over a relationship.
How many of you have a checking account? Did you know there was a time in history when people actually balanced their checking account. They’d do the math every so often to see how much was actually available. Even crazier, there was a time when people actually reconciled their checking account at the end of the month. Reconciling was some more math to make sure about the checks you’d written and the deposits you’d made were all accounted for. You can read about the act of balancing and reconciling accounts in hold history books. Some people still do balance and reconcile their accounts. My wife Lora and I still balance and reconcile our accounts. But it is a less and less common thing if the people I talk to in pre-marital conversations are to be believed. Balancing a checkbook is something of a thing of the past, much less the act of reconciling the account.
And in the age of electronic everything, maybe that’s okay. Twenty years ago you didn’t know what the bank had been up to until the end of the month when your statement arrived. Today you can look and see what’s going on anytime you want, 24/7. So for checking accounts, maybe the act of balancing and reconciling isn’t so important. But in our relationships we can’t get past the need for balance and reconciliation.
If there was ever a time in our history as a nation that reconciliation was needed, it is a time such as this.
If we, as people of faith, can’t reconcile ourselves to one another then what hope do we have to exist as a society that grows in healthy ways? It is time that followers of Christ stood up, took the lead, and attempted to reconcile themselves to people they are separated from. If you are theologically, ideologicaly, philosophically separated from you brother and sister in Christ then it is time to fix that breach. Not because it is a good idea or because I say so but because Paul goes to great lengths to write in the Bible how Jesus reconciled us with God and that if we claim to follow Jesus we are to do reconciliation work as well. Because Jesus did it for us, we are called to share that same love and reconciliation to others. The hope of the world depends on us. The hope of the world literally depends on our ability to reconcile with others.
I know, I know. You’re thinking you might lose something you hold dear. You might not have the strength of Jesus or the apostle Paul. This might be difficult. This might be hard.
That there is one of the best theological video clips ever to be created. Yes, it is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great. Since when do we give up on something because it’s hard?
Reconciliation is hard. Reconciliation goes against large parts of our base human nature. We want to be right! We want to be righteous! But all the being right and being righteous mean absolutely nothing if we are right and righteous in our own echo chamber. All the being right and being righteous mean absolutely nothing if we are right and righteous all alone.
This is a lot of what the Good News of Jesus Christ is all about. It is in Jesus Christ that we are reconciled to God. It is in Jesus Christ that we are reconnected to God. Sin, specifically our sin, gets in the way of our relationship with God. Not because God is holding us away because of our sin. Not because God is holding us at arm’s length because of our sin. God already knows ALL about our sin. And I mean ALL about it. We’re on the outs with God because WE allow our sin to separate ourselves from the love of God.
With humans it like when you know you’re in the outs with someone. Maybe they’ve done something wrong to you or you’ve done something wrong to them. The wrong gets in between you and the relationship doesn’t go anywhere. The wrong becomes a wedge in the relationship and the relationship often goes downhill even when either or both people involved know there is something that can be done about whatever it is that is causing the rift. Like you know, when either or both people decide they have to be right. When either or both people decide they have to be righteous. Or, worst case scenario, either or both people decide they have to be right AND righteous.
It’s almost like God sees all this and says, “ENOUGH with you people! Knock it off!” Oh wait, we tried the knock it off approach since the beginning of time and it didn’t work out so well. Since the beginning of time we’ve been trying ever so hard to be ever so good and we don’t have enough of whatever that takes for just being good to work out.
So God tries another approach and comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s called incarnation and we celebrate it when? Yes, at Christmas. We tend to treat Christmas as Jesus’ birthday and time for a bunch of presents and while that is true, that definition of Christmas doesn’t begin to capture the cosmic enormity of what God coming to humanity really is. It doesn’t begin to capture the enormity of God coming to humanity for the purpose of reconciling with each of us.
God, recognizing our inability to knock it off, joined us in the person of Jesus Christ. Then Jesus carries our sin to the cross where we can finally see and experience our sin being dealt with once and for all. And we are reconciled with God, once and for all. We are made a new creation in Christ.
If we’re made a new creation in Christ, what then? Are we thinking about reconciliation or are we thinking about being right? Are we thinking about relationships with others or are we thinking about being righteious? God has made us a new creation in Christ, reconciled to him so that we can reconcile with others.
With that done for us, who do we need to reconcile with this week? Not for their sake. Not for our sake. For the sake of the world in Christ Jesus. Not because it’s easy but because it’s hard. The hard is what makes it great.