This week is ‘National Reconciliation Week’. In the year 2000 a quarter of a million people walked across Sydney Harbour bridge in support of reconciliation. Jackie Huggins is an indigenous woman & former chair of ‘Reconciliation Australia’. On the 20th anniversary, Huggins was asked about the march’s impact:
‘20 years down the track has much changed? In some ways, yes, but mostly, no. We still have even worse statistics in terms of housing, health, incarceration, family violence. We know the people are there, and the feeling is still there, now we just need that sense of effort’.
Why haven’t things changed? Because reconciliation needs more than gestures & feelings. Reconciliation is always costly & painful.
Reconciliation is also the heart of the gospel. 2 Corinthians 5v19 ‘God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them’. Paul explains God has built an eternal home & acts to fill it with the undeserving. ‘The world’ is not ‘universalism’, but the offer to any & all to join him (not simply one nation). God reconciles the world in Christ, not counting our record of good & bad against us.
‘Reconciliation’ can be a financial term. Accountants ‘reconcile’ the books, making sure two sets of records match. Financially it’s making sure everything is on order. But the heart of the word is relational. It’s overcoming enmity between people. It’s removing personal hurt & anger to re-unite people in conflict.
In Christ, God reconciles the world. He bears the pain – so we don’t have to. It’s the Father, Son & Spirit’s initiative – not our idea. 2 Corinthians 5v14, reconciliation flows from Christ’s love. In v18, it’s all from God. In v21, the great exchange is made. Jesus takes our place, so we can take His. At the cross, Jesus takes your record & mine – He becomes sin. He becomes what the Holy God can’t bear to look on. He takes the Father’s wrath & is cast from the presence of perfection. So that all who believe can take His record. We get His righteousness – His record is counted as ours. It’s not just that we are saved from sin – we’re given a new life. In v17, believers are a new creation – our loves, desires & passions are re-made so that we’ll belong in heaven.
As Christ’s new creation, we are not only recipients of reconciliation – we share God’s heart for reconciling others. Peter Adam gives this assessment of Australian’s reluctance to make costly efforts to heal:
It may come from the worship of money, of possessions, of financial security. It may come from a deep guilt about how we gained what we have. It may be that old sins cast long shadows, and that one such shadow lies upon us today. Because we stole the land, we are opposed to sharing it. [The consequence of idolatry is that we are captive to our idol, because, as Jesus told us, the one who sins becomes a slave to sin [John 8:34]. Because we have not repented of the sin of theft, we are still shackled by that sin. This is because we have not set free by the Son, and set free by the truth of the gospel [John 8:36,32]. We are still overshadowed by 1788.’
In Christ, the shadow of 1788 can be lifted from us. By faith we’re free to:
- Confess our sins
- Seek reconciliation
- Give appropriate recompense
Reconciliation is always costly & painful. It’s the heart of the gospel.
Mark Smith | Senior Minister