Reconciliation: The Goal of Forgiveness
Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
“He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
The church at Corinth was being torn apart by internal conflicts and division. Rather than focus on Christ and the unity he gives, they had become followers of people. They had become divided into factions, affirming their loyalty to specific individuals rather than God (1 Corinthians 3:1-8). As a result, the church became marked by jealousy and strife.
Like Corinth, we are increasingly becoming divided by our differences, whether it be politics, Covid-19, economics, race, or a host of other issues confronting our society. Rather than striving to work together, we channel our energy into destroying the opposition. “If you are not for me, then you are against me” has become the modern mantra. The result is that families, communities, and the nation are being torn asunder by the ever-growing fractures of our society.
Rather than try to settle all the different topics and issues dividing the church at Corinth, Paul points them to a higher calling to unite them (and us). The higher calling was the participation and pursuit of the kingdom of God revealed in the church (1 Corinthians 3:9-23). In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul points to a different perspective. In verse 12, he again touches upon the division infiltrating the church. However, instead of being caught up in personalities and disputes that divide them, Paul reminds them of Christ’s work on the cross, reconciling them back to God. It is the love for Christ that governs all their actions and attitudes and unites them in mutual love and fellowship.
In verse 17, we find a magnificent truth of Scripture. Because of what Christ has done, the past sins, that destroyed our lives and alienated us from God, have passed away. Through Christ, our lives have been completely changed. Our past life and the sins that alienated us from God are no longer relevant. Instead, we are now reconciled back to God. Two points are critical for us to understand. First, negatively, reconciliation is the removal of our hostility towards God. However, It was not that God has hostile towards us, but that we, as sinful beings, were hostile towards God. Reconciliation thus removes the enmity between God and us. Second, positively, reconciliation involves the restoration of fellowship between God and us. Now we have a genuine loving relationship.
Reconciliation not only has implications for our relationship with God but also our relationships with one another. We are to model this ministry of reconciliation in our relationships with others. For example, in addressing the racial divisions characterizing the world, Paul reminds us that Christ has redeemed all people so that we might be reconciled into one body (Ephesians 2:14-16). Our unity is not based upon a mutual agreement regarding race, politics, economics, etc. It is based upon our relationship with Christ. It is not based upon externally imposed conformity but inward transformation where we see people as brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the goal of forgiveness, not just that we forgive the failures of others, but that we develop a positive relationship. We no longer count them as our enemy; we now regard them as our friends, for this is what Christ has done for us. We may still have our differences, but in Christ, we have a stronger bond to unite us.