Reconciliation is the restoration of a relationship to a harmonious state after a dispute; it is the bringing of accord out of discord between two parties. Christian reconciliation is the work of God through Christ by which He restores mankind to a favorable relationship with Himself.
Christian reconciliation can be illustrated by two erstwhile friends who are now feuding. The good relationship they once enjoyed is strained to the breaking point. They cease speaking to each other, and the two gradually become strangers. They may even be actively hostile toward one another. But then one day something happens. The two estranged friends begin to talk; pride and resentment are set aside; apologies are extended and accepted; trust is rebuilt. When peace is finally restored and the friends embrace, reconciliation has been achieved. Now, imagine that, between the two friends, only one was at fault. And the other friend, totally innocent, is the one who initiated the conciliatory process—that is what Christian reconciliation is like, as God has reached out to sinners.
Reconciliation necessarily involves change. In Christian reconciliation, God does not change. He remains perfect. But He changes us. As a result, our relationship with Him changes.
The means God used to reconcile us to Himself was His own Son, Jesus Christ: “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 men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:18–19). In fact, it was “while we were God’s enemies [that] we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). Jesus’ death makes all the difference. When Christ died, He was “making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20).
The fact that we needed reconciliation means that our relationship with God was broken. And the fact that God is holy means that we were the ones to blame. Our sin alienated us from Him. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the basis of our forgiveness and justification. By grace through faith in His Son, God thoroughly remakes us into the image of Christ. God and man are brought together: the formerly dead in sin are raised to new life. “We are no longer enemies, ungodly, sinners, or powerless. Instead, the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit whom he has given to us (Romans 5:5). It is a change in the total state of our lives” (“Reconciliation,” Woodruff, W., Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Elwell, W., ed., Baker Books, 1996).
It could be said that the entire Bible is the story of Christian reconciliation. We started off in the Garden of Eden as friends of God, unashamed and living in fellowship with God and each other. But then sin entered the world, and all our relationships were broken. We became enemies of God, seeking our own ways and living in open hostility to Him. The whole of Scripture, then, is a record of God’s reconciling us to Himself. We ran away, and He pursued us. We were scattered as sheep, and He sent the Good Shepherd. We hid in darkness, and He sent the True Light. We were dying in a self-made drought, and He sent the Living Water.
The grace and goodness of God are on full display in Christian reconciliation. “You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault” (Colossians 1:21–22, NLT).
As those who have been reconciled to God, we have been given “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). We have been entrusted with “the message of reconciliation” (verse 19). We now take the gospel to a dying world, saying, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (verse 20, ESV). Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross has made atonement for sin (Hebrews 2:17). By His death, He brought harmony to our relationship with God. We plead with the unsaved to have faith in Christ and know the joys of Christian reconciliation.