“In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
OF ALL THE EVENTS IN HUMAN HISTORY, THE COMING OF JESUS CHRIST WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT. And the gospel of Christ is the most important of all messages. But what is it about? If Jesus was truly the Son of God, what was the point of His being sent into the world? Paul the apostle, one of thirteen men appointed by Christ to preach the gospel authoritatively, wrote that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.” And what about the gospel itself? It is, as Paul said, the “message of reconciliation.” These are weighty words. They need to be understood very clearly.
The seriousness of the problem. The fact is, we are alienated from the God who made us. Our sins have cut us off from Him, and there is no way we can work our way back into fellowship with Him by our own efforts. We are rebels, deservedly under the sentence of death. If nothing is done about our condition and we die in our rebellion, there will be nothing for us in eternity but to be banished from God’s presence forever. In a word, we are lost.
The wonderfulness of the solution. Not willing to leave us in our lost condition, God provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him. In love (Romans 5:6–11), He opened the door for us to come back home. The human race has never received any better news. But the gospel has to be obeyed; its terms have to be accepted. So Paul could implore his readers, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
We should not underestimate either the seriousness of the problem or the wonderfulness of the solution. If all we can say is “That’s nice” or “That’s interesting,” we are missing the point. It is only when we come to terms with our own sinfulness — and the horror of the word “lost” — that the gospel fills us with wonder.
But neither should we forget that God is at the center of both the problem and the solution. The gospel is not primarily about our broken social relationships. These are but symptoms of the real problem: our broken relationship with God. That is what the gospel wants to fix — and until it is fixed nothing else will help us much.
“To reconcile man with man and not with God is to reconcile no one at all” (Thomas Merton).