Ephesians 2:14-16. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
What is the church in relationship to Christ? This is the question we are answering in our current series. Christ is ___ therefore the church is ___. Let’s fill in the blanks.
Christ is reconciled to God, therefore the church is reconciled to God and one another.
Reconciliation changes everything. There is no greater work of God than reconciliation. We are no longer enemies of God, but rather we are friends. God has reconciled humanity to himself in Christ (Rom. 5). In fact, God has reconciled all of creation to himself in Christ (Col. 1). The church has been left on earth with the primary mission of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5).
The great thing about God’s reconciliation toward us is that it is completely unconditional. It doesn’t come with caveats or addendums. It is completely grace based. He doesn’t retract it if we reject it on the first or even ten thousandth offer. God turns the other cheek “70×7” (infinite) times.
But our less than divine attempts at reconciliation are usually connected to all kinds of conditions. Explanations for the offense. Apologies that are cased in the vague language of self protection. “I’m sorry IF I offended you.” “I’m sorry YOU feel that way.” We are wired for self-righteousness and defensiveness making true reconciliation hard to find.
This is why we tend to just want to be around people who are never offended by us. People who have no desire to see us improve or grow in holiness. But there is no better way to grow in holiness than through the long dark winding road of reconciliation. It is the path of the cross that leads to reconciliation. It is the swallowing of the pride and the crucifixion of the defensiveness of the flesh that allows us to listen to others when they confront us. It is the death of the self that allows us to apologize sincerely. To face the hurt we have caused and own it. No excuses. No conditions. No caveats. No addendums. Just the grace of a sincere “I’m sorry that I hurt you when I did ___. I know it was wrong.”
Mean Girls: a story of forgiveness and reconciliation (mostly).
It is our union with Christ alone that brings the freedom and security needed to apologize in this way and thus seek true reconciliation. God offers us forgiveness full and free. Every offense against another person is ultimately an offense against God. So if God has forgiven and stands ready to reconcile, then we can own the pain we have caused another even if they won’t forgive. We have nothing to prove. Nothing to hold on to. Nothing to protect. Just like God we have nothing to lose but everything to gain.
And so we ask for forgiveness and we even offer forgiveness. But for us the path to reconciliation with others is still blocked by one last obstacle – have we allowed ourselves to be forgiven? Have we allowed ourselves to receive this most glorious of graces? This is the often missed step.
Think about how true this can be in your relationship with God. The transaction goes like this: 1) God offers forgiveness. This is ALWAYS the first step. God is always both the offended party in the relationship (never us) and he is always the one who initiates the reconciliation (never us). And then 2) we receive the forgiveness.
Or do we?
More than likely we spend most of our Christian life never fully trusting that we are forgiven. “God must be mad at me” is always in the back of our minds. “I could be doing more” is always in the front.
What if it is this inability to receive the forgiveness of God and to trust his grace that keeps us from truly reconciling with each other? Not only because we don’t forgive (which is often the problem) but also because we won’t let ourselves be forgiven. And so there is still a wall of hostility between us and others.
But we like the wall. We’re comfortable with the wall. It makes us feel good somehow to still have to earn it. In a strange way having to always work to keep another’s love and grace is a (dysfunctional) way to manage our own lives. It’s a law that offers us control. We actually don’t know how to simply live in the freedom of forgiveness.
But maybe that’s why God gave us the church.
“To live is Christ” offers us true eternal reconciliation with God as the basis of all reconciliation with others. Now we can offer the grace of sincere repentance and apologies and at the same time we can receive forgiveness and grace as the gift it is meant to be. These are the foundations of real reconciliation. Of enemies becoming friends. Of wrongs made right. Of growth in character, holiness, and love. Of making peace.