Why we need reconciliation to be unified
Our nation is divided across various segments politically, racially, economically, sexually, and more. Over the next few weeks, I want to try and provide a biblical framework for what is going on in our nation and try to shed some light on how these issues are primarily spiritual issues. Yes, we need secular solutions such as roundtable discussions, education, empowerment, and various social services, but unless we deal with the heart of the issue, this is like a dam trying to hold back rushing waters. It may work for a little while, but it won’t work forever.
What I would like to suggest to you today is this: our relationships with people are broken because our relationship with God is broken, and unless we are reconciled to our Creator, our reconciliation with other people will be shallow and short-lived.
Reconciliation could be defined as putting divided parties together in friendship. This is deeper than tolerance or understanding. There are many out there who have learned to tolerate those who are different from them, or understand what it is like to walk in their shoes in some small way, but being intimate friends with them is an entirely different situation.
The root of our division from people stems from our division from God. There was a time, described poetically and beautifully in Genesis 1-2, when humanity walked with God, enjoying friendship and fellowship with him in his presence, but rebellion (Genesis 3) shattered the relationship and drove a wedge between God and mankind.
To put it another way, mankind entered into a new relationship with sin and it corrupted our entire identity, weaving itself through our very being and becoming part of our nature. This sinful nature had many effects, which we will cover in the coming weeks, but one such effect was the creation of enmity, animosity and malice between God and mankind.
When the Bible talks of reconciliation, it does so through the big idea that God is moving towards men to restore relationship with them because the connection has been broken, making a separation between us, hiding his face from us so that we cannot have a relationship (Isaiah 59:2). In order for a relationship to be restored, God needs to do a radical work. This work came in the form of Christ’s death on the cross. God was willing to count our sin against Christ, rather than against us. By punishing Jesus instead of us, God was able to remain holy and then restore friendship with those who have trust in Jesus.
The love and reconciliation that God has shown for us becomes the model and the command of the type of love that we are now called to walk in. John, one of Jesus’ best friends, says of this love that it is so profoundly different from the world that if you do not know Jesus you simply do not understand true love. You only think that you do.
He says this because the love God showed us - the love that reconciles - and the love that we are called to show love to others is a love beyond our own comprehension and ability without the empowerment that comes from the gospel.
Jesus prays in John 17:20–23, that his people would be unified “so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Unity, reconciled relationships, between diverse parties who would otherwise be divided in the gospel should shout as a testimony to the world that God is real. If people can be reconciled, then people and God can be reconciled, and this means that we can have hope.
I would like to boldly suggest that if you do not have reconciliation with God than reconciliation with others is on a leash. Yes, you may learn to love a particular person, or even people. You may spend time with those of a different orientation, race, or socioeconomic class and learn to appreciate their humanity and heart. But what about those who hate you, who despise you, who disagree with you, who want to kill you, or who are your enemies? How do you love them?
See, that is the type of love that unifies - not just a tolerant love in a pluralistic society, but a love that is born out of a desire to love the way we have been loved. It is a love that looks at someone who is supposed to be your enemy and says, “You are not my enemy. You may view me as your own, but you are not mine. I love you, not because I am anyone special but because God loves you, and since I love God, I love you too. I will pour myself out to be reconciled to you, to show you the ridiculous love and grace that has been shown to me.”
That is the love that reconciles. That is the love that we need if we are to be unified.