14For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 1 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, 16and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility.. (Ephesians 2:14-16, NIV)
Two Sundays ago, I wrote that, according to Ephesians 2:15-16, Christ died in order 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 book, “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” (Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice; p. 26).
Why do you think Christians often tend to neglect the importance of reconciliation between people? In what relationships in your 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?
Ask God today how you might be an agent of reconciliation
in your part of the world.