August 27, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 2:14-16 (NIV)
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
Remember that reconciliation is not just deciding to get along with people in the future. True reconciliation through Christ addresses the fundamental problem that divides us, namely, our sin. As we experience genuine reconciliation with others, we will necessarily deal with our sin and its implications. We will seek forgiveness and, where needed, restitution. We will strive to experience the peace of God in which justice and mercy are essential facets.
In yesterday’s devotion, we saw that, according to Ephesians 2:15-16, Christ died in order to “to create in himself one new humanity out of the two [Jews and Gentiles], thus making peace.” Today, I want to focus on the second part of Christ’s purpose: “and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross.”
When we think of the reconciliation forged by the death of Jesus, we naturally focus on the reconciliation of individuals to God. Because of the cross, that which separated us from God – our sin – lost its grip on us. Thus, you and I can be reconciled to God. This is not just good news. It’s great news.
Yet, there is another dimension of reconciliation that we sometimes neglect. This is also a result of Christ’s death on the cross. It is reconciliation between people or people groups. It is seen most dramatically, as illustrated in Ephesians 2, in the unifying of Jews and Gentiles in Christ.
We might think of reconciliation between people as a secondary result of the reconciliation we experience individually with God. In a sense, this is true. Apart from reconciliation with God, reconciliation among people won’t be sustained. But, in Ephesians 2:16, reconciliation is seen differently. Here, Christ’s purpose is “in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross.” In this surprising verse, Christ first reconciles Jews and Gentiles, forming them into one body. Then, he reconciles them to God as a unified body of people. Curiously, this text identifies reconciliation among people as part of what happens on the way to reconciliation with God.
Remember that reconciliation is not just deciding to get along with people in the future. True reconciliation through Christ addresses the fundamental problem that divides us, namely, our sin. As we experience genuine reconciliation with others, we will necessarily deal with our sin and its implications. We will seek forgiveness and, where needed, restitution. We will strive to experience the peace of God in which justice and mercy are essential facets. As Brenda Salter McNeil writes in her marvelous book, Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice: “Reconciliation is an ongoing spiritual process involving forgiveness, repentance and justice that restores broken relationships and systems to reflect God’s original intention for all creation to flourish” (p. 26).
Why do you think Christians often tend to neglect the importance of reconciliation between people?
In what areas of life do you need to experience the reconciling work of Jesus?
How might you be able to live today as an agent of divine reconciliation?
As you go through this day, observing relationships at work, seeing injustice in your city, hearing on the news about social brokenness, consider how much God’s passion for reconciliation is needed today. Talk with a Christian friend or with your small group about how you might be an agent of reconciliation in your part of the world.
Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for bringing together diverse and divided peoples into one body. Thank you for where this is actually happening in our world today, as your people live out your passion for reconciliation in their daily and corporate lives. Help me, dear Lord, to be a reconciler in my relationships and in the institutions where you have placed me. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Reconciling the Whole World (2 Corinthians 5:16–21)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
This is a fantastic series of devotionals. Challenging, encouraging, and timely.
One question regarding the reconciliation between people. What role, if any, does the distinction between Christians and non-Christians play? Is the reconciliation between people actually between believers – only fully realised as part of the reconciliation between believers and God himself through repentance and faith? Believe, then belong.
And when Paul talks about Gentiles, would he be referring to those with faith in Christ (aka Christians), or those who believe anything/everything/nothing?
As a follower of Jesus, am I now fully reconciled with atheists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews? Or are believers set apart for Christ, and therefore from the world, even though we work to bring God’s shalom to all situations and relationships?
It strikes me that an accurate understanding of this would affect not just my view of my own ‘status’ in and before Christ, and indeed my view of others – but the very nature of the reconciliation I strive to become an agent for.
Hello, Neil. Great question. The basic answer is that reconciliation happens in/through Christ. So God’s reconciliation will be experienced when we receive God’s grace in Christ. Those who don’t are not (yet) participating in this kind of reconciliation. Now, having said that, we must still be people who love (even our enemies), who seek God’s peace in all relationships, etc. So folk who are not Christian may experience aspects of Christ’s peace through us.