Monday, 22 April 2013

Biblical Reflections on Reconciliation

What is reconciliation? What does the Bible say about reconciliation? Why do we need to be reconciled with God?  We considered previously the concept of Redemption, drawing attention to the sin-bearing death of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Reconciliation is the result of that substitutionary atonement, the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Let us consider what the Scripture says about it.

Open your Bible to the book of Colossians and I would like for you to follow with me as I read from chapter 1: verse 15 to 20, that we might have the scriptural understanding of the sufficiency and supremacy of Christ, is not only in terms of our Reconciliation, but in every area of our salvation.

Bible says “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 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 1:15-20)

Paul's epistle to the Colossians is filled with foundational truths that focus completely on the Person, Position, preeminence and Work of Jesus Christ. These six verses are really the core of what Christianity Is: Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation; there is no other name under heaven by which to be saved. Paul shares the supremacy of Christ who saved us. There are no other secret truths or greater levels of spirituality than this that Christ Himself is the mystery revealed, this One in whom we have hope and salvation.

Paul does not stop by telling us that Jesus is uniquely God in human form. He goes on to emphasize his point.  "For by him all things were created." Since Christ created all things we owe our allegiance and our worship to Him. Jesus is not only "before all things" we are also told that "in him all things hold together." The implications are simple: We are not "independent" Without Him we could do nothing. We ought to be grateful. Every day we live is a gift from our Lord. The passage ends with these words, "so that in EVERYTHING he might have supremacy." Jesus is Supreme. It's all about Jesus. He made everything, He holds everything together, He has inherited everything, and so He has first place in everything. Since it's all based on Him, then we should understand that if we're going to be reconciled in our relationship with God, it's all going to be about Him too. "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 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." (19-20) the sufficiency of Christ is not only in terms of our salvation, but in every area of our lives.
In Colossians 1:15-20 Paul provided us with seven characteristics of Christ that reveal Jesus is God.
First, Jesus is "the image of the invisible God." Jesus said that He and the Father were one. He said that if anyone has seen Him then they have seen the Father. He is not a replica of God, He was not created by God but, He is God.
Second, Jesus is "the firstborn over all creation." The word "firstborn" does not mean that He was created but instead uses family language to show that He is first in position and importance over all things created.
Third, Jesus created all things. He is the center of everything that was, and is, and is to come. He is over creation, over heaven and earth, over the visible and invisible, and over rulers and authorities. Jesus is the Supreme Authority.
Fourth, Jesus is "the head of the body, the church." The church is a body of believers bonded together by their love for Christ. The purpose of the church then is to glorify Christ and to do His will on earth.
Fifth, Jesus is "the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead." He is Lord even over death itself. Jesus came to earth as fully God and fully man. He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. But, death could not hold Him. He rose from the grave and, in doing so, conquered sin and death. He is Supreme. There is none like Jesus.

Sixth, Jesus is the "fullness" of God. The word fullness expresses entirety or completeness. This means that the God the Son, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit are one in the same.

Seventh, Jesus reconciled all things created to God the Father. You and I have sinned and fallen short of God's standard for our lives. We deserved death. But, Jesus gave His life for us. He shed his blood to pay the penalty for our sins. When we accept His gift of life and accept Him as our Savior and Lord then we are reconciled with God the Father. We move from the position of unrighteousness to righteousness; from sin to life.
The first chapter of Genesis tells us about God’s creation. God created the heavens and the earth. God saw that what he was creating was ‘good’. He then created man and woman and declared them to be ‘very good’. Adam and Eve lived in God’s land under God’s blessing (Genesis: 1:28).our First parents experienced the perfect relationship, friendship, order and peace with God, each other and the environment. The Hebrew word shalom is used in many places in the Bible which denote a perfect relationship with God and creation. But it is translated into English as peace. The modern English definition of peace is an absence of conflict, tension or war. But the word shalom means more than that. It means a completeness and wholeness with God, with others and with creation. However, in Genesis 3 we are told that God’s good creation was corrupted and spoiled by sin. The perfect order and shalom of the Garden of Eden was destroyed. People’s relationship with God was broken. This resulted in the broken relationships between God and man, between people and environment.

The rest of the Bible is a story of God’s plan to redeem, reconcile and restore his creation – to bring His creation back into a right relationship with him. Man's separation from God is not God's fault. Our own sins stand between us and God, and we are powerless to remove the penalty that sin brings. The only solution is a divine act of grace. Through the prophet Isaiah God explains what is at the heart and core of separation from God: "Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:1-2).

When we begin to understand that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself..." we are standing on the very foundation of all reconciliation. At the cross, mercy triumphed over justice. Because of Christ, we can be reconciled to our Creator and to each other. Have you ever attempted reconciliation while the painful memories still tormented you? There will be no reconciliation with anybody until we bring our broken hearts to Jesus first. Healing begins when we honestly confront the past. Before we can even contemplate forgiveness, we need to face what really happened and bring it to the foot of the cross.

Christ lived His life without committing even one sin and then was sacrificed in our place so we could be reconciled to God. John explains how this can be: "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world . . . to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).

Isaiah 9 prophesies the coming of Jesus. Verse 6 describes him as the ‘Prince of Shalom’. It says “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) The New Testament adopts the Hebrew idea of shalom as wholeness in God’s presence. Shalom, or peace, comes through Jesus’ death on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 says ‘For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Christ], 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.’ Jesus brings people back into a right relationship with God, with each other and with creation as a whole. It is a beautiful depiction of God working throughout history, foundationally driven through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, to reconcile not only humanity, but creation and the entire world back into perfect union with Himself.

The Collins Dictionary defines the reconciliation as: appeasement, conciliation, pacification, propitiation, rapprochement, reconcilement, reunion, accommodation, adjustment, compromise, harmony, rectification, settlement   and understanding. We hear much of this word "reconciliation" in these days. The word has suddenly become politically relevant. It seems if we can just get reconciliation happening between opposing groups of people, then an era of brotherhood and peace will follow for mankind.

The moderate understanding of Reconciliation is to reconcile divisions, i.e. man created divisions which exist between cast, creeds, genders, classes, nationalities, ethnic groups, etc. The aim is an absolute harmony and unity of humanity. The Biblical understanding, on the other hand, is: to reconcile the divisions caused by sin, first the divisions between man and God, and secondly the division between man and man. "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God," says the Bible, "and your sins have hid his (God's) face from you so that he does not hear." (Isaiah 59:2) Has there been a time when someone close to you was mad at you?  May be your spouse, your friend, your boss?  It feels bad doesn't it?  When you work out your differences and once again are on good terms it feels very good, right?  Overcoming differences and being at peace again is called reconciliation. 

We live in a land of diversity. Reconciliation is an event which indicates the changed relationship for the better between persons or communities or groups, who formerly were at enmity with each other. Bible, both the old and the New Testaments, gives us sufficient insight into the vital need and nature of reconciliation, either between God and the humankind or between the humans themselves. Hence, here there is no question of the superior and the inferior, the powerful and the powerless, the mighty and the lowly. The basic issue is of who understands the tragedy of conflict and also the beauty of personal relationship as the basis and guarantee of peace and harmony in the community and in the society. Every individual encounters the temptation to hate at some time or another. You may be a person who has experienced or witnessed the torture of you or your dear ones at the hands of an abusive wicked individual. You may have lost everything through betrayal in a business transaction or been fired unjustly. You may be a member of a people-group who has experienced rejection, exploitation, discrimination and injustice for generations. It is impossible to have lived without being hurt by something. We know hatred is wrong, but how do we come out of it?
Reconciliation takes place when you and I begin to enjoy intimate friendship with our enemies, people who have tempted us to bitterness by hurting us. This is a miracle made possible by the cross of Jesus Christ. The scriptures tell us the truth about reconciliation, and the truth is that there will never be any reconciliation for mankind except through Christ. 

The apostle Paul addressed the breach between the Jews and gentiles in Ephesians chapter 2 “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. (Ephesians 2:14)  “The Jews had gone so far as to erect a wall in the courtyard of the temple to keep the gentiles away from them while they worshiped. Paul wrote of this wall of separation: "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation . . . so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross . . ." (verses 14-16).

A gentile who ventured to pass through the gates in that wall would have been put to death. But Christ has broken down the middle wall of separation, reconciling Jew and gentile to God. The laws that kept Jew and gentile apart at the temple (verse 15) were not the laws of God. They were the rules and regulations of men. Paul went on to say: "And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both [Jew and gentile alike] have access by one Spirit to the Father" (verses 17-18).

God, through the supreme sacrifice of His Son, is not only reconciling us to Himself; He is reconciling us to each other as well. The two processes are inseparable. "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you," Jesus said, "leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24).

Reconciliation with God

The Bible says that Christ reconciled us to God (Romans 5:1, 2 Corinthians 5:18: Colossians 1:20-21). The fact that we needed reconciliation means that our relationship with God was broken. Since God is holy, we were the ones to blame. Our sin alienated us from Him. Romans 5:10 says that we were enemies of God: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

When Christ died on the cross, He satisfied God’s judgment and made it possible for God’s enemies, us, to find peace with Him. Our “reconciliation” to God, then, involves the exercise of His grace and the forgiveness of our sin. The result of Jesus’ sacrifice is that our relationship has changed from enmity to friendship. “I no longer call you servants … Instead, I have called you friends” (John 15;15). Christian reconciliation is a glorious truth! We were God’s enemies, but are now His friends. We were in a state of condemnation because of our sins, but we are now forgiven. We were at war with God, but now have the peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

The closest biblical synonym for the term atonement is the term reconciliation, and it conveys an important truth about salvation. To be “at one” with God is to be reconciled to God. Christ made it possible for sinners to have peace with God. Because of the propitiation of Christ, God’s wrath is satisfied, and we who were once enemies of God have now received “at-one-ment” or reconciliation. Reconciliation is initiated by God, it is mediated through Christ, and it is represented by us.  God is the author of reconciliation. God initiates it and we receive it as a gift of his grace. To reconcile with God means: to accept Christ in your heart. The works of reconciliation begin with God, not the human subject of any conflict. We are called first to be worshippers and intercessors standing in the presence of the Creator. Human to human reconciliation is a byproduct of that primary relationship.

Bible says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  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 people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)  ”
The word reconciliation occurs five times in these five verses in one form or the other. It is the scarlet thread that weaves together the tapestry of the truth that God is the source and author of reconciliation.  “In Christ, God was reconciling the world.” So how does God reconcile us to himself? He does it in through Christ. God was present in Christ as he did the work. In his mercy, God does not count our sins against us and or require us to bear the penalty thereof. Instead, he counts Christ to be sin for us: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin.” Christ bears our sin and gives us the righteousness of God.

A magnificent substitute has occurred. Our sin was transferred to Christ and his righteousness is transferred to us. Christ has taken our place, and we have taken his. Therefore, God counts us righteous as his own Son. What a glorious blessing! Christ takes our place on the cross and gives us the righteousness of God. It is God himself who in the person of his Son died for the propitiation of our sins. Thus God took his own loving initiative to appease his own righteous anger by bearing it his own self in his own Son when he took our place and died for us. Therefore we have peace and right standing with God through Jesus Christ, we can draw near to God. We are now accepted as friends, not just friends but also as his children. We have been adopted into God’s family.

In Paul's writings, God is always the reconciler. The essence of the message Paul proclaimed as a minister of reconciliation is spelled out in verses 19-20: God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ.  God is the initiator, not the recipient, of reconciliation. The recipient is the world (human beings). Reconciliation occurs because "God does not count their sins against them" As part of his message Paul included the fact that God committed to him the message of reconciliation.

Reconciliation is both an accomplished fact (v. 18) and a continuing process (v. 19). Although it is a done deed as a result of Christ's work on the cross, it nonetheless must be personally appropriated. This is where Paul and the gospel ministry fit into the picture. He and those like him, functions as God's agents in proclaiming what has been accomplished. To use Paul's language, God has appointed them to preach the word of reconciliation (v. 19) and so they proclaim: Be reconciled to God (v. 20).

Romans 5 teaches us that: 1) when we were powerless, Christ died for the ungodly, 2) while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, and 3)  when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son. This clearly indicates that reconciliation is something in which God took the initiative. We were unable to make a move towards God - we were powerless. We were disqualified from making a move towards God - we were sinners. We were unwilling to make a move towards God - we were his enemies. All that was necessary to achieve reconciliation was done by God, through the death of Jesus Christ, while we were still in a state of disempowerment, disqualification and rebellion.
Our reconciliation with God is not the result of our own efforts or performance; it is exclusively the result of God's work in Christ. Therefore, we have peace with God (Romans 5:1). Therefore, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2). Therefore, we have confident assurance of salvation (Romans 5:10). Therefore, we rejoice in God (Romans 5:11). All of this is the sure possession of the believer because it depends in its entirety on the initiative God took to reconcile us to himself. For this reason Paul says in Colossians 3:3: 'you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.' Reconciliation, this grand initiative of God, this whole new set up in which we now have peace with God, is the removal of all the impediments that prevented a right relationship between God and man. In the light of this wonderful fact of reconciliation, and knowing the natural tendency of our hearts to relate to God on the basis of our own merits, Paul writes: 'we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain' (2 Corinthians 6:1). Let us receive this gracious gift of reconciliation from God's hand, and let us live in God's presence with peace and joy because of it.
The Ministry of Reconciliation

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

Paul referred to it as our ministry or service. We serve as representatives of the Kingdom of God. "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God"
The Bible teaches that there are God-created divisions and boundaries that the material world is designed to produce parallels -- parables -- of the spiritual. There is indeed a spiritual law operating in the natural world, and God put us on a planet where light is separated from darkness for our spiritual education as well as for our physical needs. There is a spiritual, as well as a physical reason, for the pattern of creation and he who divorces science from true religion will never be able to come to a real understanding of the world. So God's Word makes logical distinctions between opposites. It separates light and darkness, truth and falsehood, good and evil, God and creation, God and man, male and female, old and young. Yet it is these divisions and distinctions which make Bible very unique. For God Himself, being One, embodies distinction, being God in three Persons, the Holy Trinity. The principle of unity in diversity pervades the whole created order.   Look at the gender rules in the marriage and family! The Bible says: “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”(Matthew 19:4-6)  "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honour your father and mother'... that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.'..." (Eph.5:21-6:9) here we see the principle of unity in diversity.

Christian Reconciliation does not remove God-created distinctions. It removes guilt, hostile acts, and attitudes between God and man: "While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son..." (Rom. 5:10-11) "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ..." (2 Cor. 5:18-20) - "In him (Jesus Christ) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." (Col. 1:19-22)
True reconciliation also removes guilt, hostile acts, and attitudes between man and man, woman and man: "If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." (Matt. 5:23-26; Acts 7: 26; 1 Cor. 7:11) - Nowhere are these words used in the sense of removing God-created boundaries and divisions in order to form a new non-divided whole.

Ephesians 2:13-17 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.”
Reconciliation which is often called "Peace with God," is the sign of God's continuing love and forgiveness.  If we keep in mind that Christ’s death reconciles us to God, then we must remember, Reconciliation is a call into whole, healed relationship with each other. Reconciliation enables us to be reconciled to God, community, and self when we have fallen away by sin, for when we sin we alienate ourselves from God, our community, and ultimately from our very selves.  We alienate ourselves from ourselves because through sin we are not becoming all that we are created to become.  We are created in love and for love.

The Bible makes provision for two kinds of reconciliation - between man and man - and between man and God. If a man has offended against another, he is to make restitution according to God's Law. For instance: "If any one sins and commits a breach of faith against the LORD by deceiving his neighbour... or through robbery, or if he has oppressed... he shall restore what he took by robbery, or what he got by oppression... and shall add a fifth to it... And he shall bring to the priest his guilt offering to the LORD... and he shall be forgiven for any of the things which one may do and thereby become guilty." (Lev. 6:1-7, Ex. 22) - If a man has offended against God, the eternal restitution for his sin must be paid with an eternal ransom price. The Bible describes it like this: "Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith." (Rom. 3:21-26) With such restitution comes loving unity, peace, and joy, between the two opposing parties.

The message of Reconciliation

“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20) 

 An ambassador is both a representative and a messenger of foreign affairs. He represents his country and speaks on behalf of his sovereign country. He does not speak in his own. He does not speak on his own authority. What he communicates is not his opinions or demands, but simply what has been told or commissioned to say. He is more than a mere messenger. He represents his sovereign. He speaks with authority, as endorsed in the name of his country. As ambassadors of Christ, we represent Christ, and speak for him. His message is our message. It is marvelous that the same God who worked through Christ to reconcile us to him works through us now. With blessing comes responsibility. Which means we have a job to do: “He has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” This was not only true of Paul and the apostles, but also applies to all believers who are heralds of the gospel.

Christians should be committed to reconciling people to God. In Corinthians 5:18-20 Paul tells us that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. He calls us ‘Christ’s ambassadors’ to share the message of reconciliation with others. This is our call to witness to those who are not yet reconciled to God through the cross. In the Bible, reconciliation with others accompanies reconciliation with God. Our response to God’s saving grace is expressed through our response to others. The Bible shows that broken relationships are at the root of poverty, marginalization and conflict. We are living in a world where human rebellion against God has led to self-centeredness, which in turn results in exclusion, mistrust, greed and injustice. God’s intention is reconciliation and community. There are many places in the New Testament where Christian unity is emphasized, and guidelines about how to live at peace with one another are given. In the rest of this section we look at some biblical principles in order to come to an understanding about why Christians should become involved in encouraging reconciliation.

Jesus Christ began His public ministry by declaring the kingdom of God . What He said and did during His 3 1/2-year ministry was so incredible that it just couldn't be ignored. Jesus called people to repentance and gave them hope. He gave them encouragement and healed their diseases. Even more, He possessed the power to forgive their sins. Christ's countrymen were astonished that He spoke with such authority, and people excitedly crowded about Him everywhere He went. The popular response to His message was remarkable. The main Part of His message, after all, was that all of mankind could be reconciled to God. He explained that salvation wasn't offered to the Jews only; it was extended to gentiles as well.

The word propitiation here conveys sin being covered and remitted ( Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1985, "Propitiation"). Some translations appropriately use the word atonementinstead. The New English Bible words it simply that God sent His Son "as the remedy for the defilement of our sins."

Christ's sacrifice is the remedy for our sins, but we have our part as well. We must be responsive to God's call to repentance for the process of forgiveness and reconciliation to take place. Only when we have submitted ourselves to God, as symbolized by baptism, will our sins be blotted out. At that point in the process we are justified (made right) by the blood of Jesus Christ and reconciled to God so we can be saved (Romans 5:1, 6-11).

Reconciling with others still, we must bear in mind that our relationship with God should affect our relationships with other people as well. "Beloved," wrote John, "if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:11). Reconciling with each other becomes nothing less than a necessary part of our calling. As Christ's ambassadors, said Paul, we must set an example to show others that they, too, can be reconciled to God and reconciled to man.

Blessed are the peacemakers 

In Matthew 5:9, Jesus tells his disciples ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God’. Peacemaking is an essential aspect of the Christian character. Notice the word peacemakers. Peace has to be made. It is not something that just happens. It is interesting that our sinful nature makes us peace-breakers. This is shown in today’s world as much as in the time of Jesus. Because of sin, people all too easily break the peace. This can be through large-scale wars, destructive conflict between individuals, ethnic or religious groups and sadly conflict within or between Nations.

People’s relationship with God is restored through the blood of Christ. But in these verses in Matthew 5, Jesus is also showing concern for healing within society. He wants to see restored relationships between people, and he assumes that his followers will be peacemakers. This means that Christians should make peace with each other. We also have a role in creating opportunities for conflicting non-believers to meet and reconcile. By providing opportunities for reconciliation, we can show the reconciling power of the gospel in a visible way. This requires that we ourselves are reconciled with God. It also means that every conflict needs to be resolved.

God is committed to helping us heal our divergence, but we need to commit to healing them as well. This requires that we perpetuate an intimate relationship with God; this is necessary if we are truly to draw on His power. We must be reconciled with our fellowman if we are to prove to others that God's way really does work. Husbands and wives must reconcile. Parents and children need to reconcile. We must bridge the generation gap in our own families.

God clearly links our relationship with Him to our responsiveness to each other. We should be at peace with other people, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18NLT). Sometimes we simply need to be more sensitive. The book of Proverbs is of inestimable help in this regard. Reconciliation brings peace. Breaches need to be healed, and we need to forgive. But this isn't a process that we carry out on our own. God intercedes for us and participates with us to help us fulfill His will. He restores us to a right relationship with Himself and with each other. He prepares us for an eternity with Him and with each other in His family.

Ultimately, that's what the Kingdom of God is about: being reconciled to God and man. In the Kingdom every human being will at last come to a right relationship with God-a relationship that had been prevented by our sins. This is a vital part of the message Jesus Christ preached to the people of Galilee, and then to Judea, and that's the message the disciples began to spread throughout the world.
It's as timeless a message now as it was then: We need reconciliation. We can be thankful that God allows us not only to experience it, but to share it with others as He proceeds with His plan to offer salvation to all of mankind.