Tuesday, June 05, 2007

In The End It’s About Reconciliation
(From upcoming article in the Handbook for Spriritual Leadership--Embracing Conflict)

What’s the point of creation and the fall of Adam without reconciliation? It is incomprehensible to think that God would create man in his image, give Adam and Eve and their seed free will choice, allow them/us to experience the consequence of rebellion and conflict without the opportunity for reconciliation.

Looking through the Old Testament lens we see how futile reconciliation efforts are by our own works. Paul in explaining the radical difference between the two states of sin and righteousness uses three words with similar root and meaning when he talks of a new kind of reconciliation. Those words are katallagḗ, apokatallássō and metallássō. Packed into the root of the meaning of these words we have first an understanding of exchange and then of reconciliation.
[1] What an incredible depth of meaning is wrapped up in those Greek words that our English fails to capture. Exchange and reconciliation. What a completely appropriate concept to fuse into a single word meaning to be reconciled from conflict.

God’s Exchange In order to accomplish reconciliation with God there first must be an exchange; His son for me, His blood for my sins, His body for my punishment. Second is the exchange of our old sinful nature for a new one. But wait a minute. Who started this conflict, God or me? Shouldn’t God, the Father, expect me to take the first step of reconciliation? After all, I’m the one who failed Him, not the other way around. If we are talking Old Covenant standards, yes. An eye for eye, tooth for tooth and life for life. Whoever was at fault must make an atonement for the sin. But in the New Covenant there first must be something for me to exchange for and so Grace was poured out through Jesus and his sacrificed life so I could have something to exchange with and for. Wow!

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Romans 5:11

…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.
Colossians 1:20

At a spiritual level our believing in the Lord, Jesus Christ accomplishes two similar but distinctive states. First I am justified. That takes care of my “legal” state. I am no longer guilty for my sins. Second is that I am reconciled and that takes care of my “relationship” state. While my justification is a static status my reconciliation becomes a dynamic change or exchange. Because Christ exchanged his place with me for punishment my relationship with God the Father is restored and I then exchange an old Adam body for a new one. (Col. 1:22; Eph. 2:16)

One other connection of reconciliation made so real is contained in the experience of Communion. If we take Paul’s point in Colossians 1:20 and put it up next to Hebrews 10:10, …we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, we now experience the complete understanding consisting first of exchange, His body, His blood for my life and then reconciliation and relationship with the Father just as if I had never sinned. Communion, reunion, reconciliation.

My Exchange So how does that apply in a human conflict situations? In order to have reconciliation with another there has to be an exchange as well. I have to exchange my way, my control and my ideas for a bigger need, opportunity and vision. No matter the level of hostility I have a choice. I can exchange my self justifying human nature of gratification, preservation and control of my environment for something different. For what thing might I make an exchange? I have the choice to exchange my selfish nature to become an advocate for the best outcome for the person with whom I’m in conflict. In essence, because of the exchange it is now useless to fight with me because now I have chosen to fight for you. Reconciliation is now available.

[1]Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1995, c1985). Theological dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament. (41). Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

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