Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Monday, 18 January 2016

Reconciliation within the Holy Scriptures - Introduction

The concept of reconciliation is centred on the fact man has disobeyed God, and fallen away from Him. This fall has direct negative implications on personal, communal, and world relations. God's will is of course the restoration of His relationship with man, and therefore all other relations flowing from this. This takes place, in the New Testament, through Jesus Christ. Cecil McCullough argues that within the Bible, restoration on the 'vertical' level (between God and man) is always accompanied by restoration on a horizontal level (people are reconciled to each other).

Within the Old Testament we witness the reconciliation of God's people within His covenant - and this reconciliation is not solely a particularistic view found in the Scriptures (Israel called out of the nations) but a also a universal one. 'I will give you as a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.' (Isaiah 49:6)


The New Testament delves further into this crucial notion of reconciliation, with God, as Father, inviting all into His Kingdom. Our Lord Jesus Christ invites us, through His words and actions -  announcing the Good News of His Gospel to all sinners;  poor, weak, oppressed, marginalised and all human beings.  In His teaching however, lies the spiritual law that when the sinner accepts this offer of reconciliation from God, then they must also be reconciled with their neighbour. The Lord's prayer itself is a prime example: 'forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.' (Matthew 6:12) By receiving God's offering of reconciliation and eternal relationship with Him, we are simultaneously asked to be reconciled to others. Matthew 18: 23-24 comes to mind (with a servant refusing to forgive) as well as the parable of the Prodigal Son. Saint Mark also tells us that prayer and forgiveness go together; 'And when ye stand praying, forgive if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses.' (Mark 11:25) 

Not only through the words of the Gospel does Christ offer us understanding of reconciliation; but through the Eucharist, the eternal table of communion and fellowship. Table fellowship was, in the ancient world and in Jesus' context, of particular importance, as it was a symbol of social unity and was seen as a group of people striving for the same ends. The pharisees refused to have such fellowship with 'sinners' (those who they deemed unworthy) however Christ, in opposition to this hypocritical mentality, invites us all. Christ welcomes all sinners, eats with them (Luke 15:1) and offers each other the opportunity to reconcile with one another. Another dramatic, yet moving account of reconciliation offered by the Lord, is when He decides to stay with the tax collector, Zacchaeus. Jesus' actions led to the disapproval of the authorities. Through this act He ignores and abolishes social boundaries, and the sectarian attitudes within Israel. 

Jesus Christ's teaching does not simply apply to those 'in His group,' or members of His Church; but applies to all human beings. His teaching on love for one's enemy, and on non-retaliation is apparent: 'Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also!' (Matthew 5:39) Where Christ finds injustice, unfairness, the putting down of marginalised groups (such as Luke 7:36 with the woman who anoints Him) there is a firm rejection. Thus, we can conclude that loving others practically, flows from a loving relationship with Christ our God and Saviour.

Main Source: Reconciliation in Religion and Society, Proceedings of a Conference organised by the Irish School of Ecumenics and the University of Ulster 
- Bible and Reconciliation, Cecil McCullough 


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