Spiritual Estrangement and Reconciliation : Man with God
Dr. Saju Joseph
Estrangement of man from God and God’s plan for man’s reconciliation with God is the gist of the Bible message. This is the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The ultimate purpose behind the creation of man is eternal fellowship with God. It was lost by the fall of man by sinning against God, the creator. This fall lead to man’s estrangement from his fellow beings and the very nature around him. Bible says that God himself initiated the reconciliation process. Bible describes this story of reconciliation.
Event and Consequences of Estrangement
The third chapter of Genesis illustrates how no one is ever quite the same after knowingly committing a sin. Notice Adam and Eve's sin occurs after God had instructed them (Gen.2:16-17). Nobody had to tell them they had done wrong—they knew! Now they looked at things differently than they had before; a sense of wrong rushed in on them immediately. Just moments before, all had been friendly and joyful. All of nature seemed obedient to their every wish, and life was good. Suddenly, however, they felt guilty and fearful, and it seemed as if every creature in the Garden had witnessed their act and condemned them. Feeling exposed, they sought to hide, and illustrating that separation from the purity of God began immediately. The virtue of their innocence began to lose its lustre.
Sin creates a sense of estrangement from God, leaves a film tarnishing the person's mind. Paul reminds Titus, "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled" (Titus 1: 15). Sin perverts the mind to the extent that one no longer looks at life in the same way. Jeremiah 6:15 describes a sickening end to repeated sin: "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down," says the LORD.
Some children are adorable because we love to see the beauty of their innocence. But what happens on the trip to adulthood? Sin alters the way a person looks at life and the world. With maturity, people become distrustful, sophisticated, competitive, cosmopolitan, cynical, suspicious, sarcastic, prejudiced, self-centered and uninvolved. It is sin that drives people apart and creates fear.
The estrangement from God alienated man from his fellow human beings also. A sense of alienation remains with modern man, alienation from his true self, alienation from his fellows, alienation from his world. This awareness of estrangement and the absence of meaning preoccupy novelists and playwrights of all times and finds full expression in the various existentialist philosophies. It would seem that this may provide one bridge between the Christian gospel and secular society. Alienation gives birth to individuality and self-awareness, and it is overcome in such human development by a process of reconciliation. In his self-consciousness man becomes alienated from the primal harmonies of nature. But he is reconciled by a capacity for love in which he is able to fulfill and elevate nature by his own transcendence of nature. This reconciliation by love is itself inherent within the process of nature. Yet man does not move to reconciliation uniformly and progressively. Rather history manifests a movement of regression. Reconciliation would seem to mean the achievement of meaning. This can be defined in terms of mature love. The conditions for full self-consciousness and the attainment of sane society are with us, and regressive aspects can be overcome by harnessing the natural capacities of man. The fall was bound up with the whole divine creative process of shaping selves who should become self-consciousness. The inherent self centeredness of sin can be removed only by the gracious activity of God.
God’s Plan of Reconciliation
In the Old Testament the Jews are presented as those who reconciled with God from among the rest of the human race. The faith and obedience of God by Abraham was the basis of the adoption of the Israelites as the people of God. They were given special privileges like the laws of God, promises etc. But Bible reveals that they were unfaithful to God and consequently He rejected them and sent them to captivity. Still keeping His covenant with the forefathers of the Israelites, God brought them back to Palestine, the Promised Land. Following this God sent his own Son Jesus Christ to this world to save both the Jews and the rest of the human race. But the official Jewish religion rejected Him and the Roman government crucified Christ Jesus at the instigation of the religious Jews of the day.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was a propitiatory sacrifice which was in the eternal plan of God for the remission of human sin (1 Pet .2:24) which spiritually estranged man from the fellowship with God. God freely opened the door of reconciliation for all those who believe in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. People have to accept the death of Jesus as their own death and receive him as their personal Lord and Saviour.
The reconciliation with God removed the strong wall of separation between the once specially privileged Jews and the condemned Gentiles. The reconciliation with God brought people together who were once separated in the name of caste, colour, race and class. New Testament reveals this truth and is very specially stated by the Holy Spirit through Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians.
The Nature of Reconciliation
Paul describes the former and the present condition of the Gentiles very vividly:
1) They had been treated with contempt by the Jews. William Barclay says that the barrier between Jew and Gentile was absolute. If a Jew married a Gentile, the funeral of that Jew was carried out. Even to go into a Gentile’s house rendered a Jew unclean. Gentiles were seen by Jews as fuel for the fire of hell. Gentiles were discouraged from coming inside the temple with threats of being put to death. They had to stay on the outside of the temple area.
2) They were spiritually bankrupt. Paul says that they were without hope and without God. He calls them foreigners and aliens. Aliens mean separation and estrangement.
Foreigners mean having no share in the covenant. The Gentiles at that time had no hope as a people beyond death. Idea of foreign - being in a different time, language, customs and culture.
3) The new relationship of the Gentile (2:13-22) vs.13- Paul moves to the present with the phrase “but now” Gentiles and Jews are reconciled to one another (vs.13-16). The means of this new relationship with Christ is the blood of Jesus (vs.14). Christ not only makes peace, but He Himself is the very substance of it. Christ abolished the hostility, the prejudice; the walls between us (vs.15). Christ abolished our approaching God thru commandment, sacrifice, law and regulations. The idea isn’t just changing, but making new. In Christ, Jew and Gentile are brought together to be the people of God (vs.16). He brings them together and makes them one body.
One New Year’s Eve at London’s Garrick Club, British dramatist Frederick Lonsdale was asked by Seymour Hicks to reconcile with a fellow member. The two had quarrelled in the past and never restored their friendship. “You must,” Hicks said to Lonsdale. “It is very unkind to be unfriendly at such a time. Go over now and wish him a happy New Year.”
So Lonsdale crossed the room and spoke to his enemy. “I wish you a happy New Year,” he added with emphasis, “but only one.” This is an example of worldly reconciliation, which is only temporal. But the reconciliation through Christ is everlasting.
4) Gentile and Jew at peace with God (vs.16-18). There is no one else thru whom we can be reconciled. Christ by His death secured peace. This also meant ‘access, (vs.18) or unhindered approach to God: and continual access’. Roman 5:10 says that while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of His Son.”
5) Gentiles and Jew sharing the privileges and blessings of the Gospel (vs.19-22)
Paul refers to them as a nation, a family and a building. Now not only are they not estranged, but are members of God’s household. Christ is the Chief Cornerstone of the building. He holds it together and gives it unity.
The Impact of Reconciliation
1. Peace with God
To be at peace with God is the greatest blessing a human enjoys in this life. It removes all the obstacles on our way to reach God. It wipes out all the doubt, fear and anxiety caused by the evil one, Satan. A person’s mind is full of hope when reconciled to God. Faith with strong conviction and consistency in prayer life are the results one enjoys. They are peaceful and joyful even in adverse circumstances and situations.
2. Intrapersonal Peace
It is the peace within oneself. The mind of a person who is not reconciled to God is a battlefield. The basic reason behind the interpersonal conflict among humans is the intrapersonal conflict. In many cases we find fault with others for everything. It is nothing but a reflection of one’s own inner problems of which one may be unconscious in most occasions. Therefore the intrapersonal peace a reconciled person experiences is a great blessing for our fellow beings who daily associate and interact with us.
3. Interpersonal Peace
The most identifying problems any family, church or society faces today in the world is interpersonal problems. This leads to family conflicts, divorces, murders, divisions in churches, wars between races and nations. Once a human is reconciled to God his problems with fellow human beings find its absolute solution. Once God becomes our friend, no one is our enemy. Once God is with us none can do any harm to us. This gives us the peace that passes all understanding.
May the Holy Spirit work out in every human being His plan of reconciliation with God the Father, our Creator. Let the evils of estrangement be dispelled from the hearts of every human. This must be our prayer always. May our Lord Jesus Christ be glorified who broke the wall of estrangement and prepared the way for reconciliation and peace in our lives.