Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
Colossians 1: 19-22
The New Testament writers use rich, evocative images to unfold the significance of Jesus’ death: a bloodstained battlefield, a slave market, a law court, a sacrificial altar… The word pictures engage our imaginations, even as they invite us to place ourselves in situations that might not be immediately familiar to us.
In several places, though, Paul writes about the cross in language most of us can readily identify with, often from first-hand experience – that of a broken relationship in need of mending.
In many such cases, the phone call is made, the card is written, the flowers are given, apologies are offered and accepted, and the relationship moves on. In other cases, the hurt is all too painful, the hostility all too powerful. Issues of justice may also be involved, with reparation required. Forgiveness is possible, but won’t come cheap. The likelihood of reconciliation seems remote.
This heart–breaking reality is at stake in humanity’s relationship with God.
Here in Colossians and elsewhere in his letters, Paul is not embarrassed to describe us as God’s ‘enemies’, as ‘alienated’ from him, and to call out our behaviour as ‘evil’. All the more staggering, then, that reconciliation comes about at God’s own initiative, and does so through the Son. Central to the gospel is the announcement that ‘God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:19).
In particular, the cross is at the heart of this breathtaking plan. What will God do through Jesus? He will reconcile ‘all things’, writes Paul, making it clear that God not only makes peace with individuals, but will one day bring the whole universe back in harmony with himself. But at what price does this peace come? Again, Paul is clear: ‘through his blood, shed on the cross.’ He pays the cost required.
It’s the cross which brings about the ‘but now…’ relationship we enjoy with God, where formerly alienated enemies are now ‘holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation’.
The cross of Jesus stands at the climax of the entire history of salvation. Everything is understood in the light it casts, a light extending forward to the day when all things will be fully restored. Meanwhile, that light illumines our daily lives as we seek to be shaped by its reconciling power, knowing that we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us.
Theology Advisor, LICC