The Make Up Kiss of Reconciliation
II Cor. 5:19-21
How Sad is Estrangement Between People
Can you so deeply offend someone, hurt them so profoundly, that all sense of friendship, camaraderie and relationship is irreversibly broken and severed?
Absolutely you can, and how heart breaking when that happens!
Perhaps you have even witnessed such a sad occurrence personally; perhaps this has even happened to you or someone close to you.
There is nothing sadder than two friends estranged; nothing worse than marriages dissolving; nothing breaks the heart of a parent more than children no longer talking to each other. How sad when former business partners or parishioners avoid all contact.
It is all too common an occurrence, isn’t it? People who haven’t spoken to each other in years, and probably never will again.
How sad! What a heartbreak that is and, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence.
So we know all about estrangement, relational tension, people not talking to each other and the need for reconciliation.
Sadder Even Is Estrangement Between Us and God
Even sadder is the fact that estrangement and breakdown exists on a far more fundamental level between humanity and God, between the children of God and their Heavenly Father.
There is considerable talk in the Scriptures on the need for reconciliation between the creation and the Creator, and how that was achieved at the foot of the cross.
One of the classic references highlighting this is Romans 5:10, where it’s so bad that we are called enemies of God:
“When we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to him through the death of his son.”
Wait a minute… you mean to tell me that we were God’s enemies? Of course we were! You didn’t know that?
We were at enmity with God; we walked away and turned our backs on God a long, long time ago. The only life we have ever known was the life of estrangement and distance.
You go and ask almost anyone on the street and you will find a general ambivalence toward God. We may be the exception here, but most people in this world have this uneasy connection to God. Try to find Him when you’re in trouble, but otherwise He’s best left alone.
There’s always been this sense of something between humanity and God, a wedge of some sort. There’s an issue between people and God, which is why most people are uneasy about God and have a conflicted relationship.
Paul succinctly captures this malaise when he wrote: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” Col. 1:21
Paul even gives a reason for this strain between God and us: “because of your evil desires”.
A Time of Great Intimacy with God
Funny thing is that it wasn’t always so. The Scriptures record a time and place when there was nothing between God and us; when all was well in this primary relationship, where people had a personal and intimate relationship with God in the here and now, in physical space and time.
So intimate in fact that the Bible speaks of a time when our ancestors, Adam and Eve, “heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” (Gen 3:8), and heard God call out to them by name.
I would love to know what that sounds like. What does God walking in the Garden sound like? To be that near that you can actually hear God walking is mind-boggling.
While there may be a sense of God nearby and perhaps, at our best moments, we might enjoy his presence spiritually, nothing compares to a type of fellowship with God that is physical, without pretense and in real time and space.
In fact, the opening chapters of Genesis tell the amazing story of how God dwelled among them in a very natural, personal and intimate way; where the sound of God walking in the Garden was as natural as the sound of your friend or partner walking next to you!
This was incredible friendship, incredible intimacy, the likes of which we cannot fathom in this ‘covered up’ world of ours.
This is a covered up world where we tend to hide much, cover up, and pretend to be something that we are not.
Theirs was a time of no cover up, where they were so well known to each other and to God that it says that “the man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.”
Meaning, no cover up, no pretension, no faking it, nothing hidden but fully known and exposed with no shame.
All of which speaks of a type of relationship and intimacy between God and people on a level that we have never experienced.
We only dream about the kind of intimacy witnessed in those opening verses of the Bible.
The Beginning of the Fig Leaves
Yet all of it ends up shattered and broken, totally and utterly destroyed, so much so that they soon begin to hide away and cover up.
“They sewed fig leaves and made coverings for themselves.” Gen. 3:7
That says everything. Those fig leaves were so much more than just fig leaves. It ushered in the era of the fig leaf, friends; an era in which we still live!
Ours is the era of the fig leaf, where we cover up, duck and hide away, instead of this lost era of nakedness where they were fully known and lived in this innocent, shameless communion with God and each other.
What a sad footnote, that when God walked in the cool of the morning they hid away from him instead of running into his loving arms:
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” Gen 3:8-11
And you know the rest of the story, of course, of how this was the beginning of the estrangement between God and his people; and how at the end of that day they were barred from the place where God walked in the morning, in the cool of the day.
“So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Gen 3:23, 24
Sadly, words such as ‘estrangement’ or ‘alienation’ are far too weak to capture the profound sense of separation that happened.
It wasn’t just that things were strained or awkward but instead a total and complete breakdown of the relationship, where only minimal vague communication was possible.
They were barred from Eden, this place of perfect harmonious relationship, never to return!
One of the more gripping images was that of Adam’s sons trying to make an offering as a way to contact God, who by then was so far removed that the long column of smoke barely reached Him. In fact, one of the son’s offering never did reach God!
What a contrast to the previous time when they were so near that Adam actually heard God’s footsteps in the cool of the morning and heard God’s voice calling out to him.
The Wedge That Drove Us Apart
So what on earth happened between God and Adam and Eve? Great question!
First of all, you need to realize that while with most estrangements there are usually two sides to every coin and usually both parties take some of the pain, in this situation this was not the case.
Whatever it was that happened was on our side. God did not offend us but we offended Him. We did not recoil in pain, He did!
Nothing exists to suggest that God had caused offence. Instead, we have offended God.
So what was it, what is it, that would so offend God that he would completely and utterly withdraw himself?
Of course you know the answer as well as I do. It had everything to do with the introduction of sin.
God had made it very clear what they were not to do:
“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’ ” Gen. 2:16, 17
That was the only prohibition, the only “do not”. It was not meant as a tease or a temptation, but as a constant test of their freedom.
God longed for a relationship based on free will instead of an act of creation. So this tree stood as evidence that mankind had a choice and chose to live in relationship with God.
This became the very focus of Satan’s temptation:
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Gen 3:1-7
That singular act of sinful disobedience ushered in such a torrent of sin so that not only were they swept away by it, but every person born since is also born into this reality of sin.
“Sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Rom. 5:12
Wow, that’s pretty extreme for just an act of sin. Folks, we cannot down play the severe consequences of sin. There is something about rebellion, disobedience and defiance that are the very antitheses of God.
Sin is the one and only thing that is God’s trigger point and thus will always get a reaction from God. Not only does he lash out, as we saw in last week’s sermon, but he also recoils from it.
This is why sin can never be trivialized or downplayed. Sin is everything that God is not; it is the polar opposite of God.
If God is the North Star, then sin is the South Star. Polar opposites!
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Isaiah 59:2
How Great the Love of God
Now here is where the wheels fall off the wagon, in the rest of the story. You would think that separation is it, and it’s done and over with.
Not so fast, my friend.
As tragic as this is and, as deeply offended in an extremely personal way as God was, it is astonishing that the very one who was offended would reach out with reconciliation to those who so offended him!
How absurd is the idea that the God who was offended would somehow overcome his offence and reach out to us?
But does it not say?
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18
Was it not God that reached out to Adam and Eve? The amazing thing is that despite God’s wounded heart still being fresh and raw, He reached out to them: “But the Lord called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ ”
Was it not God, the offended one, who offers up his Son as a way to atone for the offender?
“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting man’s sins against him.” II Cor. 5:19
All of that – how absurd is that? Who on earth has ever heard of the offended one, the victim reaching out in reconciliation?
The method of reconciliation was not measured in gold or silver, but in drops of blood from his very own Son: “We were reconciled to him through the death of his son.” Romans 5:10
How outrageously lavish God’s love for us really is; God has reconciled the human race to himself, in that Jesus took the deep offence of our sins upon him.
Jesus removed the sting in God’s wound, allowing God to reach out to us despite what we had done.
“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. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” II Cor. 5:19-21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us. How easily that is said, and how lightly that rolls off the tongue; but oh the cost of God making Jesus who had no sin to be sin for us!
No nobler words have ever been given to capture the extent of the cost of our reconciliation than from the writings of Isaiah, the Prophet.
Come on, say it with me (let’s stand).
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
This is why Paul said: “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” II Cor. 5:20
How absurdly generous God must be! In fact, I love Rom. 5:10 in the Good News version since it says it all:
“And since, when we were his enemies, we were brought back to God by the death of his Son, what blessings he must have for us now that we are his friends and he is living within us!”
What a blessing that we are now his friends and he is living with us!
Look at what his death and resurrection accomplished:
1. The scapegoat that carries away your sins into the desert of God’s forgetfulness, to be remembered no more
2. The currency and coins that paid for your freedom as a slave to sin
3. The lightning rod that took the blow of God’s wrath meant for you
4. The make-up kiss that allowed for you to be fully reconciled with God
All this because God loves you so! Won’t you respond to him today?
Scott Street MB Church invites you to write your reflections and thoughts about the weekly messages shared by lead Pastor Jurgen Rausch.