if jesus reconciled us to god, who are we to hold a grudge?
BUT NOW IN CHRIST JESUS YOU WHO WERE ONCE FAR AWAY HAVE BEEN BROUGHT NEAR BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST.
I hope you’ve loved meditating on this verse as much as I have!
Together, we’ve celebrated how Jesus brings us near to God! We’ve marveled at how he makes outsiders into insiders, even us. We’ve been challenged to invite others to have a seat at God’s table and our own. And we’ve wondered at the weirdness of a God who would spill his blood to rescue rebels. But we have one more stop before we’re finished with our verse (not that we could ever finish with it now that it’s in our head and hearts! Amen!?!?). Still, in this last installment, I want to cover one HUGE application of our verse: because Jesus has reconciled us to God, we can—and should—be reconciled to others.
But reconciliation is hard.
Bleh. So, I don’t even want to give you a real life example on this one, because this is one area of practical holiness that I so often fail at. But, here goes! When I fight with my husband (notice I said when, not if), I hate to do the hard work of reconciliation. Don’t get me wrong, I hate fighting, but once the fight is over, I’m far more likely to want to shove everything under the rug than to do more talking. You see, I hate conflict almost as much as I hate fighting. And the last thing I want to do after all that fighting is talk about why we fought. It just feels like more conflict. But that’s exactly why we fight in the first place, isn’t it? Don’t we need to talk about our differing positions? True reconciliation isn’t just apologizing for the accusations we made and the unkind words we said. Reconciliation is digging down beneath those words and talking about the underlying reasons for our fight. And that takes hard work. It takes honesty and forgiveness and humility. But I want to let you in on something: so often when I’m exhausted and ready to just smooth things over, there’s one thing that convicts and convinces me to do the hard work: it’s Jesus. Does that sound weird? Maybe? But it’s true. I think about the lengths Jesus went to in order to bring me near to God and give me true reconciliation with my Father. And that’s what motivates me to put on my big girl pants and face the ensuing conflict. That’s what prompts me not to settle for cool distance and awkward silence. Instead, I press in and dig down for the cause of our conflict, knowing that even if we have rigidly differing opinions, we can be reconciled. We can be close to one another, because Jesus has brought us close. And that nearness stretches beyond our relationship with God and right into our relationships with others.
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(CONTINUED FROM ABOVE)
Brought near to God.
I get this concept straight from the context of our verse. You might remember that the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to a bunch of non-Jewish converts to Christianity (otherwise known as Gentiles). These were not historically God’s people. They did not grow up with the Scriptures. In fact, they did not know or worship God at all. They were those whom our verse calls “far away.” But God, in his mercy and love, initiated reconciliation with them. Jesus did the hard work of bringing them near by shedding his blood on their behalf (you can read more about this concept in “Jesus Makes Us Insiders”). Jesus made peace between God and these people who were the furthest out. He made these non-Jewish outsiders part of his own family. But, they weren’t the only ones in the family.
The rest of the gang.
If the Gentiles were “far away,” the Jewish people were already near. They were “God’s people.” They knew God and his promises. They had God’s Scriptures. And in those Scriptures, they read about and anticipated the One who would come and reconcile them to God. They thought they knew who they were looking for. But, what many Jews didn’t realize was that this offer of reconciliation wasn’t just for them—it was for everyone, even the furthest out, even the Gentiles. Jesus (the promised One) “came and preached peace to [those] who were far away and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:17). Not only that, but Jesus “made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14). Do you get what this is saying? There was a major barrier between these two groups, an insurmountable cultural, religious, ethnic divide. But, if Jesus could bridge the infinite distance between God and man, then he could most certainly bridge the much smaller gap between these two divided people groups. Here is our takeaway: People who are reconciled to God must be reconciled to one another. There is no other option given.
Which brings me to us.
You know why all of that is in the Bible, don’t you? It wasn’t just for the original readers, who certainly had some MAJOR hurdles to get over. It’s for us too! We’re just like them, we have our own relational hurdles with people, don’t we? But if Jesus has reconciled us to God, who are we to not reconcile with other people? So, let me press in a bit. I’m gonna make you take some serious relational inventory. It’ll probably sting. Just know it stings me too.
- If Jesus gave up his life to reconcile us to God, is it ok for us to refuse to “give up our lives,” our prerogatives, or our hurts to reconcile with someone else?
- What personal rights are we holding onto instead of humbly considering someone else?
- What anger or bitterness or hurt are we harboring against someone?
- What about that person we have a secret grudge against? What are some honest things we need to confess?
- Who are we keeping at a cold distance? What hard work do we need to do to bring them near?
- Who have we hurt or offended that we are refusing to apologize to?
I know. “So and so might be totally annoying. And that other person did the lowest possible thing.” I get it. But didn’t you? Didn’t I? Aren’t we the very enemies of God that Jesus died for? So, let’s keep on digging down, and working out the bitter roots we’ve covered up. Now, I know there are times when reconciliation simply isn’t possible. But as much as it depends on you, even if you can’t have that conversation because of safety or time or distance, you can be reconciled in your heart, you can forgive, you can admit, you can find healing. And let’s be honest. Those cases aren’t our norm, are they? We bring them up to deflect the truth. And that truth is that even our closest relationships are all gunked up with issues we simply need to work through. So, would you join with me today and be honest and humble and press into those relationships that need the peace that only Jesus can give?
WHAT IS ONE STEP YOU CAN TAKE TOWARD RECONCILIATION TODAY?
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