Christ our Reconciler
By Craig Baxter
Reconciling broken relationships is a difficult business because forgiving others is hard. Whether it be towards a spouse, family member, or friend, forgiveness is one of the hardest things we will ever do. Why? Because relational offences are deeply felt and hurt experienced is very real. And in our cry for justice we want that relational debt paid by the person who offended us. We cannot fathom otherwise. Andrée Seu Peterson writes:
Forgiveness is a brutal mathematical transaction done with fully engaged faculties. It’s my pain instead of yours. I eat the debt. I absorb the misery I wanted to dish out on you, and you go scot-free.”
It sounds implausible, doesn’t it? This is where Christ enters in. The Bible tells us, and our hearts agree, that we are sinners who are by nature enemies of God. We have offended God by breaking His law and rebelling against His gracious rule over us, causing “a separation between us and God” (Isaiah 59:2). However, in the gospel message is the good news of reconciliation between God and man, brought together by Jesus. The Apostle Paul said, “For in him 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 1:19-20).
Take this in. Paul is saying that God, the one offended, in a radical act of love moves toward sinful humanity in the person and work of Jesus Christ to reconcile us to Himself, to repair the relationship we broke. This radical repair came in the form of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. On that cross, Christ, the “holy, innocent, unstained” (Heb 7:26) Son of God, died in our place. Christ paid the debt, not us. Christ absorbed the pain, not us. And Christ relinquished every opportunity to hold sin against us. God was willing to absorb our offense by laying on Christ “the iniquity of us all”(Isaiah 53:6). Our Lord did not do it reluctantly but with full acceptance and joy. And God looked upon Him and was satisfied (Isaiah 53:11).
This radical repair between God and man is now received by grace through faith for all who place their trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. The power that raised Jesus from the dead now raises His followers to new life (2 Cor 5:17). God’s reconciliation with us now becomes the basis and the power for us to be reconciled with others. Bitterness and hurt is absorbed when we accept by faith that Christ absorbed our debt, giving us now the power to absorb the debt of another.
But what about justice? Be thankful that your insurmountable debt against God was extinguished in the death of Christ and trust in His sobering promise: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom 12:19).
Reconciliation is painful and it is difficult. But God’s reconciling grace is sufficient for this. Will you trust Jesus with your pain and your hurts and absorb another’s debt owed to you? Will you exchange vengeance for love and continue to entrust yourself to Him who judges justly (1 Pet 2:23)? May you know the joy and freedom that naturally follows when full forgiveness is received and full forgiveness is granted.