The Light of Life Magazine
A ministry of Christian writing

Light of Life: March 2012

Editorial: POPULATION - P. Abraham

THE CHALLENGE OF THE CROSS - P. Samuel Manoharam

THE CROSS, THE MISSION OF RECONCILIATION - Peter S. C. Pothan

ABIDE IN ME - K. V. Varghese

PROMISES OF GOD AND PRAYER - Mathew Paul

Bob's Banter - THE WHITE CASSOCK..! - Robert Clements

Jesus Asks... "IS THAT YOUR OWN IDEA, OR DID OTHERS TALK TO YOU ABOUT ME?" (JN. 18:34) - Vijay Thangiah

Your letters

Contents page

March 2012

THE CROSS, THE MISSION OF RECONCILIATION


Peter S. C. Pothan

We need to share the love of God with others.

The other day I was watching the DVD, Candle in the dark, on the life of William Carey, the so-called Father of Missions. After a perilous 5-month long ship journey, William Carey and his family entered the Bay of Bengal and the Hooghly River. Then in the dark they took a boat to a spot near Calcutta and entered the city late at night. This was because the British East India Company did not want missionaries in India, as it would upset their trade with the Indians. Mrs. Carey complained, "We have come all the way here and now we are unwanted and illegal immigrants!" "No, my dear," replied Carey, "we are ambassadors for Christ!"

Paul says, "He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christís ambassadors as though God was making His appeal through us." Like William Carey we are all called, young or old, male or female, to be ambassadors for Christ. This is the mission of reconciliation that God has entrusted to us. As we look at the cross, what do we see? Just a lonely figure hanging there, or a door into the future? As we view life through the cross, we will look at things differently. The cross highlights sin, but also emphasises salvation. The cross opens up to us victories and new visions. It is a place of blessing and a place of redemption. The cross illustrates the love of God. But it is not just a love that we can hold for ourselves. No, it is a love we need to share with others.

Let us look at this topic under 3 headings, the meaning of reconciliation, the means of reconciliation and the mission of reconciliation.

Meaning Of Reconciliation
Reconciliation means the bringing together of two warring parties and doing away with their enmity or bridging the quarrel. It implies that the two parties that are now reconciled were formerly hostile to one another. In Biblical terms it talks of reconciling us to God. The Fall led to a breakdown of relationships between humans and God, and consequently between humans and other humans, and between humans and nature. It is from this position that we need to be reconciled to God. The New Testament tells us bluntly that we as sinners are enemies of God. "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life" (Rom.5:10). Paul is more blunt when he says, "And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before Him" (Col. 1:21-22). We should not minimise the seriousness of these passages. An enemy is one who is not a friend, but in the other camp. He is a Ďhostileí opponent and one who is Ďestrangedí or separated from God. It is into this desperate situation that God had to intervene through Christ so that we could be reconciled and restored to fellowship with God. That was the original intention of creation where Adam and his wife had full fellowship with God and walked with Him in the Garden of Eden. This perfect relationship was destroyed with the Fall leading to the need for reconciliation.

It is interesting to note that the New Testament nowhere speaks of Christ reconciling God to man. Instead, the stress is on man being reconciled. This is very important to understand. It is manís sin that caused the enmity. Thus it is manís sin that has to be dealt with. So man has to Ďbe reconciled to Godí (2Cor.5:20). Unfortunately, man does not seem to be worried by this estrangement and the barrier between God and himself. So it was God who had to take the initiative and break down the barrier reconciling man to God.

Means Of Reconciliation
The means of reconciliation is the death of Christ on the cross. Paul says this twice in one verse, "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." Christís death on the cross broke down the barrier between God and man that sin had raised at the time of the Fall. It was the perfect sacrifice having its effects both God-ward and man-ward. No wonder, Paul appeals, "We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." He emphasises, "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." This reconciliation is proffered to us so that we will receive the double benefits of being righteous and being reconciled to God. Can we refuse such a great offer? The writer to the Hebrews says, "So Christ was sacrificed once to bear the sins of many people, and He will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him" (Heb.9:28).

1 John 4:10-11 says, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." The New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology comments, "These two sentences in the New Testament encapsulate the four most distinctive features of the Christian love ethic. It is theocentric, because the origin of genuine loving lies in Godís gracious initiative. It is Christo-centric, in that the Son is the focal point of the Fatherís love. It is active and self-sacrificial, reaching its peak in the death of Christ. And it demands a reciprocal, imitative response from those who are its beneficiaries."

Mission Of Reconciliation
As we have just noted, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross does not only bring reconciliation for us personally, but it also "demands a reciprocal, imitative response from those who are its beneficiaries." No wonder Paul says, "Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." We have to take the good news of reconciliation to others. We need to be reconciled not only to God, but also to our fellow humans and to nature. All these were destroyed with the Fall and we need to reconcile in all these three areas. But we need to note that the mission of reconciliation covers all these areas.

We need to note that reconciliation is not just a process, but it is also a relationship. This is true and complete salvation, and the true meaning of reconciliation. It is the restoration of the relationship with God. As Oswald Sanders says, "Salvation is not merely deliverance from sin, nor the experience of personal holiness; the salvation of God is deliverance out of self entirely into union with Him." Salvation is the transformation from our own egos and lives into a relationship with God. That means we have to share what we have received with others. It is not just for the Pastor, the missionary, or the evangelist, but all of us young or old, male or female, have to share the good news of reconciliation. As the chorus goes, "Freely you have received, freely give, go in My name and because you believe, others will also live."

May God help us as we do the mission of reconciliation to our neighbours, our colleagues and our friends.




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