It’s a pretty difficult subject to wrap our minds around and even harder to put into action.
I podcast sermons from a pastor in Texas: Matt Chandler * who one might associate with the resurgence of Reformed Theology and the “new Calvinism.” In a lot of his sermons, including the two or three I’ve listened to while running in the past week, Chandler makes his listeners flip back from wherever he’s preaching to Genesis 3. Why? Because Genesis 3 is where the whole world fell apart. In Eastern Orthodoxy, the fall is viewed as a rupture in relationship between man and God, between man and woman. It’s not so much a fall from grace as it is a broken relationship, like an extreme argument between friends or lovers; one which will take years and hard work to overcome.
The beauty of the Gospel, simply put, is that God wanted to reconcile with his beloved. He reached down and sent his son to be the great sacrifice not only of atonement but of his desire to be reconciled with warped, lost creatures. It’s sort of like the time I took Coy out for milkshakes on my own dollar, even though he’d thrown a fit and been disobedient the whole day long. We got milkshakes and walked around the town center in the blazing afternoon heat simply because I wanted to restore our relationship. I sacrificed a few dollars to the burger joint and my clean shirt to the sweaty walk. But I did it because after nannying for three summers, I loved Coy like a little brother. God loves us quite a lot more than I love Coy and so instead of a few dollars, he sacrificed himself to repair our broken relationship.
But our relationship with God wasn’t the only thing that was damaged in the tragedy of Eden. Adam and Eve suddenly broke apart. Their intimacy was destroyed, and we’re living in the aftermath. We see it every day. My BBC headlines that come daily to my email are always about people ruining one another. Today a French national was abducted by gunmen in Mali and a student opened fire at a university in Hungary. We’re all torn apart, we hide in our broken, flabby skins; we get defensive because we’re so afraid of being open; we lash out at others, criticise them and shout because we are so terrified of our own depravity and the awfully humbling fact that we can do nothing about it.
I want to go to another country. In many ways, I want to go to a place where women cover their heads, the men grow thick, unruly beards and the imam calls for prayer five times a day. I don’t want to go because I feel strongly about women’s rights or education or the “fight” against “terrorism.” I want to go because I think that Jesus offers a better answer. People are always jumping down one another’s throats. But in Jesus we have this great shift in the reality of the world. There’s reconciliation–with God and with each other. I want to take that offer to others and share it with them.
But reconciliation doesn’t happen in one conversation. It doesn’t happen in a day. The US is still dealing with the effects of the Civil War. My Grandad would never have even called it that. If we can’t even decide on a name 150 years later, we clearly still have issues. And have you ever heard of Africa? The entire continent is awash in conflict between clans, tribes, and races. The Muslims themselves are still warring over who should have been the right successor to the Four Righteous Caliphs. Roman Catholics and Protestants maim and kill each other in Ireland. Netanyahu still raves about Palestinians and Jewish settlements… the list goes on.
People are working for peace in these things. But the problem is, they’re missing the most important element. They are missing Jesus. The forgiveness, the freedom, everything that Jesus offers us is essential for reconciliation. Without him there is no lasting reconciliation, there is no peace.
But even with Jesus, we are still humans and reconciliation is hard work.
* Matt recently suffered a seizure. He is back at home with his family; please keep him, his wife Lauren and their children in your prayers.