The focus for this series of articles on Reconciliation is on this Scriptural passage:
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” 2 Corin 5:16-20
The main point from my last article, Reconciliation: God’s Most Hoped-for Outcome, was that “Reconciliation is integral to who God is and who we are…. It is foundational to our understanding of God’s purposes in the world and His purposes in us individually.”
Today we will look at some definitions and common and biblical usages of the word, “reconciliation. It seems to me critically important that we know what is meant by “we have been given the ministry and message of reconciliation,” if we are to fulfill our purpose—to fulfill the part we have to play in God’s purposes for the world.
(Word nerd alert: hang in there, trust me; it’s really important!)
Most dictionaries agree that the word “reconciliation” is defined as:
1) the restoration of friendly relations, as in “his reconciliation with your uncle,” for example. Synonyms include words like, “reuniting, reunion, bringing together, fence-mending. rapprochement, or
2) the action of making one view or belief compatible with another, as in “he aims to bring about a reconciliation between art and technology.”
Also generally agreed is that “reconciliation” originates from the root, “conciliation,” which is defined as
1) the action of stopping someone from being angry; placation, as in “he held his hands up in a gesture of conciliation, or
2) the action of mediating between two disputing people or groups, as in “many disputes are settled through conciliation by the official body.”
Therefore, according to the dictionary and common usage, when we are reconciled, it means that our relationship is restored to a state that enables us to be compatible and friendly with one another again.
But how do today’s definitions help us understand what God meant in preserving this passage of Scripture – written so long ago in a different language to a different culture? Well let’s see what Biblical language scholars can add to our understanding.
From one Hebrew word study, I learned that, “The Hebrew word for reconciliation is kapar”, pronounced ‘kaw-far’. This is one of the most theologically significant words in the Bible. In addition to reconciliation, kapar is also translated into English words such as forgive, purge away, and merciful as well as a few others. By far, the most commonly translated word for kapar is the English word atonement.
When the word atonement is broken down to its historical parts (at-one-ment) it means a condition without tension. When Christ died on the cross for us, He removed the tension between us and God (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.) His shed blood reconciled the conflict between us and the Father. With this in mind, reconciliation has its Biblical foundation in the atonement of Christ. So a biblically informed definition would carry this idea–the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice.
Bringing It Together
In honing the meaning into a simple Biblical definition, I like how Richard Ezell describes it:
“Biblical reconciliation is the process of two previously alienated parties coming to peace with each other. Because God has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, we can reconcile with each other, no longer counting our offenses against one another.”
So, after all this word study and thinking and reading and praying about the meaning of our key passage, I gather that reconciliation is a decidedly biblical concept. I know that I have made that point more than once—it may seem I only have one point and saying it more often than I need to—but that’s because I think it is essential to know just what it is the Lord is intending by giving us the responsibility to take the ministry and message of reconciliation to the world.
I just want us all to take into ourselves the understanding, the Holy-Spirit-breathed understanding, of what this means. And then I want us to go out into the world and do what the Lord has mandated us to do! Please pray with me that this will be so; that we will fulfill our purpose in a polarized, conflicted world that needs to be reconciled to God and to each other.
Next article, I will be exploring just what our role—our part to play—might look like. We will look at how it played out in a Biblical story or two, and what it can look like today.
Mary is one of the founders of Where Grace Abounds and served as Executive Director from its inception on July, 1986 through March 31st, 2007. She speaks and teaches at churches and conferences across the country. Mary has also served on several boards of non-profit organizations, is a conference speaker on a variety of topics that include: Intimacy with God, Healthy Sexuality, and leadership development. She currently serves in leadership in her denomination. Mary’s favorite ministry roles are discipleship counseling, group facilitation, and leadership development.
Mary often characterizes herself as “a seeker of Truth” and has a long-standing fascination with human behavior and motiviation. Her education consists of lay and discipleship counseling, indepentent study about the integration of psychology and theology, counseling and human sexuality. She also holds a BS in Human Services and an MA in Psychology from Regis University.
Mary attends a Friends (Quaker) Church.
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