There is a picture, seen long ago, that lingers in my memory. It is of Adam and Eve, with shoulders bent forward, faces toward the ground, leaving the Garden of Eden. You may have seen it also. It may be famous. In any case it is a poignant portrayal of extreme disappointment and sadness.
The sadness lies in the separation from the joy and peace of Eden; and more to the point, the alienation from God. An angel with a flaming sword guards the way to the tree of life. [Genesis 3:24] Gone are the pleasant conversations around naming the animals. No more hearing the sound of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. Life is now dominated by toil, sweat, thistles and dirt. This is followed by heartache as children quarrel and brother kills brother.
What becomes clear as we ponder this desolation is the necessity for reestablishing relationship with God. Alienation is not a happy state.
This alienation is an ongoing wearing experience. When humans, living on the second level of the Divine Order, turn from God and take their cues from society, or from the third level the Created Order, everything goes out of kilter. The result is pain, sadness, and yes, alienation.
Broken relationships are probably the most devastating experiences in the lives of people. The fallout is measured in bitterness, physical and mental illness, hatred, orphans, violence, etc. Alienation from God leaves humankind in a kind of limbo; it sets us back on our own resources. From a spiritual point of view these resources are usually very limited. Like the “prodigal” we are in a strange country, far from home and with little nourishment. In some sense we are out of sync with the universe. How hopeful then, that far too rare concept, reconciliation. It is more than a concept.
With this as backdrop the picture of salvation as reconciliation is so full of promise. This doctrine is most clearly stated in 2 Corinthians 5. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them . . .” [v.19].
“In Christ”! – that is: in the sending of Jesus Christ to walk this earth and proclaim the love of God. God’s purpose was to heal the broken relationship, to invite the world back into a restored relationship. This is good news.
Pride sometimes hinders the process of reconciliation between people. Not so on God’s part. Christ humbled himself and took the form of a servant to live among us and demonstrate the love of God. God’s willingness to not “count trespasses against us” is the further move that offers the forgiveness, which is necessary for reconciliation.
Another way of portraying this is that it leads to peace with God. The ending of the familiar benediction given to Aaron, the brother of Moses, to bless the people with, is: “the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” [Numbers 6:26] It is still there in the New Testament benediction: “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [Phil. 4:7]
“Be reconciled to God”: a lovely proclamation, a loving invitation.
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