There are numerous images in scripture concerning the doctrine of the atonement. When I am teaching my course in evangelistic communication, we delineate many of them. However, the image that attracts the most interest from students I teach in North America is “reconciliation.”
At first, reconciliation conjures up pictures of relationship problems between people which causes them to become alienated, or worse, to become enemies. Reconciliation brings warring parties, even nations, together. Reconciliation has the power to make friends of enemies. Reconciliation is a great idea!
However, before we focus on reconciliation between people and nations, we must remember that the most powerful portrait of reconciliation is God with humanity:
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
The concept of God reconciling includes at least three primary components:
- The world. The scope of God’s reconciliation is the whole world. Even creation is included, things seen and unseen (see Colossians 1:20).
- Enemies of God. Scripture reminds us that “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God” (Romans 5:10 in part). It is not friends whom God reconciled. It was not family whom God reconciled. It was not good people whom God reconciled. It was enemies. It is hard to think of all people as enemies of God. However, in our sinfulness that is what we were. And all persons apart from Jesus Christ are still God’s enemies. However, being an enemy does not mean a person is hated. Throughout scripture we are told God’s love reaches to his enemies: “…but God shows his love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “Loved enemies” is what we were and what the world is.
- Costly love. God’s love for his enemies was so vast that he sacrificed his life to save his enemies: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).
It is not such a big deal to see reconciliation between people when there is little distance to begin with. But when there is a vast chasm of separation (enemies), then reconciliation takes on gigantic proportions. To cross a small stream with one jump is not a big deal, but to leap the mighty Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is a big deal. Our sin caused a Colorado River of separation between God and us—yet God leaped across the chasm and reconciled us to himself. And the leap killed him. Such was the extent of his love. Praise be to his name!
To declare this truth and make it known throughout the world is worthy of our lives. I pray this issue of Lausanne World Pulse and our work in the Lausanne Movement will give us greater appreciation for God’s reconciliation and our commitment to be reconcilers.