Our mission is reconciliation

I believe our mission as followers of Christ is primarily to be God’s conduit for reconciliation. It’s not our job to fix people. We’re not good at fixing people. It’s God’s job to fix people because He is good at it. Our job is to let God make His overture of love through us so that, as many as are willing, might accept His invitation to return to Him, which is the reversal of what happened in the Garden.

Just so you believe that my point is biblical, here’s what Paul said:

19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Cor.5:19-20 NIV*)

I’ve highlighted two points in this passage that I want to focus in on here: they have to do with sin and reconciliation.

What God is NOT counting against us: sin

This first point has puzzled me about modern Christianity for many years. If God is no longer counting people’s sins against them, why are we? Why do we make our appeal to those who don’t know Christ all about sin? Having pondered and studied this for a long time, I have come to the conclusion that we actually have a superficial understanding of sin (for more on this, see “Missing the Mark“), not to mention, not fully realizing what God did on the cross.

Let me be clear: sin is an issue…just not from God’s side of things.

One reason I think we still believe God is focused on guilt and sin is because, unless one is a psychopath, we’ve all had a guilty conscience. Of course, some have conditioned their hearts to dismiss it (“having their conscience seared…” 1 Tim.4:1-2), still, guilt is a powerful motivator, even though this is precisely what the cross freed us from (see Rom.8:1-2).

But because of this deep-seated angst, when a fiery preacher confidently tells us God is angry with us for breaking even the least of His rules (and we don’t want to get zapped), we readily respond by reciting a “sinner’s prayer” so we can get our “go to heaven” card punched and avoid punishment.

Okay, I’m being facetious about that last part…but it’s not too far from the truth.

Besides, there’s a fundamental problem with this tactic. First, this is a terrible way to start a relationship with someone (Come to me or burn forever!), creating massive cognitive dissonance when we say things like “God is love.” Second, and more relevant here, God seems to think He’s no longer holding us guilty of our sins, a point that the New Century Translation brings out so well:

19 God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself. In Christ, God did not hold the world guilty of its sins. (2 Cor.5:19 NCV*)

And this brings us to what I think God is wanting from us.

What God IS wanting: restoration

Reconciliation (Greek: katallagē) simply means to be restored and brought back into favor. To put it rather colloquially, God wants His kids back!  When Adam and Eve sinned, something terrible happened. We changed our perception of God; we started to paint His face with the Serpent’s brush instead of seeing Him as He actually is.

So, instead of walking with God, we hid from Him. We created religion based in separation to replace intimacy in relationship with God. We alienated ourselves from Him and made Him an enemy in our minds.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. (Col.1:21 NIV*)

Notice that we’ve alienated ourselves because of our “evil behavior.” What does that mean? Again, the Greek word for “sin” (hamartia) means to err, to wander away from the path, to lose sight of our intended design. And because of this error in judgment, we were corrupted. We fell out of favor and blessing because those are fruits  of being “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet.1:4).

I believe this is what God means by being “lost.” By cutting ourselves off from Wisdom and Love, our wrong thinking led to making errors in judgment, which led to evil behavior, which leads to darkened and futile thoughts…about God…about us….about life (Rom.1:20-21). The rest is pretty much all of history.

We had lost our way…and God would not allow it to go on indefinitely because it would eventually bring about our total demise. Here’s what early Church father, Athanasius (298 -373 AD), said about this in his classic work, On the Incarnation:

Then, turning from eternal things to things corruptible, by counsel of the devil, they had become the cause of their own corruption in death… (Kindle loc. 116)

Further on, Athanasius says this about the Father’s heart toward our predicament:

It would, of course, have been unthinkable that God should go back upon His word and that man, having transgressed, should not die; but it was equally monstrous that beings which once shared the nature of the Word should perish and turn back again into non-existence through corruption….what then was God, being Good, to do? Was He to let corruption and death have their way with them?

…It was impossible, therefore, that God should leave man to be carried off by corruption, because it would be unfitting and unworthy of Himself. (loc. 139-146*)

God’s solution? What we see with this classical paradigm of restorative redemption is Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leaving the ninety-nine to seek out the one, and a good Father waiting for his prodigals to come home so He can fully restore them, celebrate their return, and be united with them forever (see Luke 15).

So, I wonder…what if we actually got out of Jesus’ way and let Him reconcile people back to Himself through us instead? In other words, what if we stopped trying to fix people, heaping guilt and shame on them, or worse, causing them to turn away from God because of our judgmental attitude and, instead, just started loving them and trusting Jesus to do the rest? Just a thought….

* All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 39 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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15 Responses to Our mission is reconciliation

  1. You wrote, “This first point has puzzled me about modern Christianity for many years. If God is no longer counting people’s sins against them, why are we? Why do we make our appeal to those who don’t know Christ all about sin?”

    You just made a bunch of religious folk very uncomfortable. “Sir!! Surely thou art not propagating a greasy form of grace? Surely thou hath misinterpreted sacred texts to suggest that God is not counting each and every one of our sins.” 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      “Surely thou hath misinterpreted sacred texts to suggest that God is not counting each and every one of our sins.” 🙂

      Haha! Good one, Patrick! Ironically it’s funny how much we want to dumb down grace and rob it of its power. We want to take our sins off of the Cross and whittle away at them ourselves, in our own strength, by being “sorry enough,” trying harder next time, instead of just believing Jesus and letting Him deal with them in our own lives. Maybe I should’ve added that we need to get out of the way and let Jesus when it comes to our own issues, too!

      A very wise teacher told me a long time ago, “Whatever you magnify gets bigger.” When we focus on sin, guess what gets bigger! We make sin bigger than God’s redemptive power to wipe its effect out on the cross, and experientially in our lives as we follow Jesus. Again, it’s not that sin isn’t an issue; it’s just that His love and grace is infinitely greater! He has wiped away what was against us on God’s side so that we can freely come to Him and be healed and made whole. I love how the Passion Translation says it:

      13 This “realm of death” describes our former state, for we were held in sin’s grasp. But now, we’ve been resurrected out of that “realm of death” never to return, for we are forever alive and forgiven of all our sins!
      14 He canceled out every legal violation we had on our record and the old arrest warrant that stood to indict us. He erased it all—our sins, our stained soul—he deleted it all and they cannot be retrieved! Everything we once were in Adam has been placed onto his cross and nailed permanently there as a public display of cancellation.(Col.2:13-14 TPT)

      That’s the GOOD news that brings great joy! 🙂

      • I love that…“Whatever you magnify gets bigger.” When we focus on sin, guess what gets bigger!” This is basically what I told a young man the other day who was having problems with pornography. He was magnifying the problem because he was so focused on it.

        “Just give into it,” I said.

        He looked at me like I had lost my mind.

        “Listen, you are trying to fight your flesh in your strength. Quit fighting…any time you feel the urge to look at porn, allow it to have its way. However, before you let your flesh have its way, make a deal with yourself to first read two chapters of the Bible and pray for 15 minutes. If, after doing that, you still feel the urge to feed your flesh, go for it.”

        “So you are saying to feed my spirit before I feed my flesh?”

        “EXACTLY! Chances are that, if you feed your spirit first, your flesh won’t be hollering anymore because you have just allowed the Holy Spirit to do your fighting.”

        Some might say that is about the craziest advise ever given, but it has worked out great for me.

  2. Bruce says:

    Hi Mel, I noted that on your “Resources on the Father’s Love” recommendations you have Bill Johnson’s and Graham Cooke’s blogs listed. What with both of these men’s involvement in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement, I’m curious how you balance some of their teachings with Jude 1:3-4? And with regard to this post, while I agree with you that as believers, our sins have been forgiven because of our faith and trust in what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, it does not negate the reality that unbelievers are still accountable for their sin and as believers we still can and do sin and that these sins still need to be confessed and subsequently forgiven as per 1 John 1:5-10. And you can correct me if I am wrong but I believe that the scriptures clearly indicate that repentance still plays a significant and required prerequisite for salvation. Focusing solely on the “love” aspects of God and ignoring the consequences or reality of sin, both on the unbeliever and believer, is not from my understanding, the whole of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and advocating such produces a significant danger. Balance is always important and I can agree with you that threatening or being judgemental towards unsaved people outside of the Church is usually not productive and being loving towards all sinners is what we are called to do but being loving also includes warning others and salvation still requires repentance and one cannot just simply sweep that requirement under the rug and leave that aspect of salvation for Jesus to take care of.
    And as you obviously know, within the Church, we are instructed to exercise discernment and make judgements when we see fellow believers committing grievous sins. That’s always been a difficult task and removing the log from our own eyes prior to asking or recommending someone else remove the twig from their own remains a difficult balanced requirement to this very day. Graham Cooke says that God doesn’t even see the sins that Christians commit (only the pain they experience), on page 249 of “Prophetic Wisdom”, which conflicts with numerous scriptures. There’s a lot more but I will spare you. And some of the twisted doctrines and practises that Bill Johnson advocates are off the pain charts but I will spare you there too.
    I think I understand what you are advocating about focusing on loving others and to stop being judgemental and in essence for non-believers I agree, initially. But eventually the matter of dealing with the transgression of God’s laws and nature does have to be dealt with. And that would also even apply to those within the body of Christ, for minor infractions or gray areas. Bigger infractions like abortion and porn, not so much.
    I think that you really need to define what you mean when you say “trusting Jesus to do the rest”. As an example, if a non-believer asks you if watching porn is OK, would you be forthright and tell him or her that it isn’t, and endeavour to explain why or would you just trust Jesus to deal with that? Balance is key, always has been. Interested in your thoughts. Blessings. – Bruce

    • Mel Wild says:

      “I think that you really need to define what you mean when you say “trusting Jesus to do the rest”. As an example, if a non-believer asks you if watching porn is OK, would you be forthright and tell him or her that it isn’t, and endeavour to explain why or would you just trust Jesus to deal with that? Balance is key, always has been. Interested in your thoughts. Blessings. – Bruce”

      Fair enough. I hope you understand that I can only summarize points in a brief blog post. What I mean is that I teach people how to hear God for themselves, develop a devotional lifestyle, and follow Jesus…instead of me telling them what to believe before they’ve had a revelation of the truth. In your porn example, I would answer their question by asking them how watching porn would affect their relationships and how they see themselves, etc. Most people already know the answer and want help. I have never compromised the Scripture, but I don’t turn it into rules and regulations for me to try and fix people with, but as wisdom for the best way for them to live. Only Jesus truly fixes people. People are not transformed by me telling them the rules; they are transformed by encountering Jesus in His word for themselves. Otherwise, we’re just being religious. I’ve found Jesus to be a lot better at setting people free than us. My job is to point people to Jesus and trust Him to change them as He sees fit. I’m simply there to help them navigate that journey.

  3. Bruce says:

    Hi Mel, I thought I should provide a follow-up on Graham Cooke indicating that God doesn’t look at or see our sins. This statement is consistent with what Graham has said throughout his book “Prophetic Wisdom”. My problem is that Graham’s logic, while scriptural from one perspective (what we are in Christ), fails to coincide with the scriptures that speak about the other perspective, e.g. our old nature and judgement that does take place now. Graham Cooke teaches the erroneous fallacy that God’s judgment ended at the cross and there is no judgement now until the Great White Throne. This is, of course, is not true. From the Acts of the Apostles, we see the judgment of God on Ananias and Saphira. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul uses the term “judgment”(krino) as a divine means of “correcting” (pedeou) His children. We see the judgment of God to take place upon the church of Thyatira with the slaughter of her children prior to the Great White Throne, and we likewise see God using deception as an instrument of judgment in 2 Thessalonians 2.

    God does in fact see our imperfections and He is dedicated to changing us into that which he has ordained for us to be. God does see our sinful habits and bad habits and convicts us so that we can stop doing what it is that is not according to the character of Jesus. Graham Cooke’s logic does not fully align with scripture. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin that we might repent from those sinful actions of the flesh and be forgiven.

    1 John 2:1-2 My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

    Christ is called the “propitiation for our sins.” Here a different Greek word is used (hilasmos). Christ is “the propitiation,” because by his becoming our substitute and assuming our obligations he expiated our guilt, covered it, by the vicarious punishment which he endured.

    1 John:8-10 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

    Sorry for going on about this but Cooke’s teaching is both subtle and dangerous.

    Regards.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thank you for your comments and push back, Bruce. You bring up great points and this type of discussion always helps to clarify what is being said. First, since what Graham Cooke might believe about this is not relevant to my post I won’t comment on that, but I will try to answer your other points about forgiveness as briefly as I can.

      Let me start by clarifying what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that we don’t sin or that we shouldn’t confess our sins to God. Confession simply means “to say the same as” or “to agree”. Christians should agree with God on ALL accounts… not just about sins but about everything. We’re his children, and it is only His ways that fulfill. We’re designed from the ground up to agree with Him, depend on Him, and live from Him. Also, I DO believe that God convicts us of our errors in judgment, not to hold against us in unforgiveness, but as a good Father corrects His child (Heb.12). It’s also healthy to confess our sins to a trusted friend so that we can be free from shame and bondage (James 5:16). We must work to keep our relationship healthy and free from offense.

      But these are all dealing with the consequences of sin in our lives and with our relationship to one another, which we should be going to the Lord with and/or having people pray for us so that we can be healed and made whole. However, this is altogether different than saying that God hasn’t already forgiven us, as many places like 2 Cor 5:19 and Col.2:13-14 clearly tell us.

      Of course, this brings up 1 John 1:9, which many use as a proof-text to say that God won’t forgive us unless we confess. But making a doctrine out of one verse is not a good thing to do, and we also need to see the context. For just a couple of verses later, John says this: “I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.” (1 John 2:12) So, we can’t have it both ways. Either God has forgiven us or He hasn’t. Again, I believe the context is what I said above. We confess (agree with God) for our own spiritual health.

      To save space here I will just put this clip from Andrew Farley to further explain what I believe is a good way to look at 1 John 1:9.

      As far as Ananias and Shaphira (Acts 5), again, we have to be careful about making doctrinal conclusions about God based on a singular and particularly unusual event. If we take away that this is how God judges liars to the Holy Spirit in this life, then we have a hopelessly flawed doctrine. People have been lying to the Holy Spirit for 2,000 years without consequence (at least in this life). Again, to save space here, I will refer you to a good article on this by Paul Ellis. Here’s the link:
      https://escapetoreality.org/2015/04/09/what-about-ananias-and-sapphira/

      I hope this clarifies my position. If you need further clarification, please let me know. Blessings to you.

      • AfroLatino says:

        Really enjoyed the article on Ananias and Sapphira. Thank you!

      • Bruce says:

        Hi Mel, thanks for the response to my follow up, somehow my original response to your post didn’t get approved and you only provided a response to my follow up regarding Graham Cooke and not my original response. I am assuming that was an innocent oversight. Unfortunately that leaves a number of my original observations and questions unanswered. An additional area of concern is your use and fondness for The Passion Translation, because of it’s close affiliation and use by the New Apostolic Reformation movement and it’s endorsement by Bill Johnson, not to mention, it’s dubious direct commissioning by Jesus to the author, Apostle Brian Simmons. This link refers: http://www.spiritoferror.org/2018/06/important-facts-about-the-passion-translation/7962 I thank you for your clarification covering forgiveness, some of your points appeared to infer that doctrine was being formulated on one verse, when in fact, such is not the case but I do get the intent of your response. Much appreciated. – Bruce

        • Mel Wild says:

          Thanks for pointing that out, Bruce. I found your original comment in my comment “spam” folder. Not sure why it went there, but I approved it.

          As far as people’s disagreement with the so-called “Apostolic Reformation” movement and the Passion Translation Bible, I will have to respectfully disagree with their assessment. I’ve looked extensively into allegations like these and mostly find them misinformed or unfounded. While no Bible translation or one’s doctrine is perfect, I find most of these leaders and websites are dismissing someone or group that disagrees with their preferred traditional interpretation or even Bible translation. Having said that, not all translations are equal and I don’t use translations like TPT as my main source, but it is a helpful resource that can bring more clarity to portions of the original Greek (and Aramaic in the case of the Gospels) that aren’t clear in traditional translations. The problem is that some zealous Christians have taken it upon themselves to be self-appointed watchdogs for the body of Christ and it becomes nothing more than an evangelical witch hunt. This tribal divisiveness is not actually helpful but harmful to the body of Christ. We can have honest disagreement without demonizing people or groups who have a different view than us.

          The essential doctrines are pretty much laid out in the Nicene Creed (which was why they were written). And, as Augustine wisely put it: “in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.” So I don’t wish to go down that path of finding out what’s wrong with people I might disagree with. Leaders like Bill Johnson and Graham Cooke are not apostates nor are they part of cults (like some like to label them) anymore than Fundamentalist cessationists are cults and apostate. Sadly, one move of God denouncing the next move of God has been the typical M.O. in Church history. I don’t have to agree with everything they’ve said in order to benefit and recommend their teachings. I do with the same with other parts of the body of Christ that I might fundamentally disagree with. Jesus said His sheep hear his voice and won’t follow another. The problem is that we, as leaders, have not done a good job with teaching Jesus’ sheep HOW to think; we simply tell them what to think, which is not good or healthy for spiritual growth. The truth is, we can learn from anyone who sincerely follows Jesus without having to agree with everything they believe. None of us can say we have all right interpretation, and disagreement doesn’t necessarily mean false teaching. We must be able to admit that we may be wrong, no matter who we think we are.

          Jesus didn’t say the world would know we’re His by our doctrinal agreement, He said they would know by our love for one another (John 13:35). Somehow, we’ve seemed to have forgotten that. So, that’s all I’ll say about it. We can agree to disagree on what I see as non-essential matters. Thank you for your comments. Blessings to you.

        • Bruce says:

          Thank you Mel for taking the time to respond. We obviously have numerous differences of opinion and further dialogue would in all probability not change that. Appreciate your effort. Blessings to you also. – Bruce

  4. Amen, Mel! Well said. This problem is so huge within the church at large, sometimes I feel very overwhelmed, very outnumbered. Instead of trying to love one another (or at the very least just worshipping together peacefully) we seem to believe it is our job to call out everyone else’s sin and to “preserve the faith.” I’ve watched far too many people get hurt by this maladaptive gospel, this relationship dysfunction, this false teacher witch hunt. I want no part of it.

    I also appreciated Patrick’s wisdom above. So many of us still falsely believe that we can get over dysfunction, porn, addictions, by our own will power. No, it’s usually our own will power that got us into the mess in the first place! We need to surrender it to His will. Stop struggling under your own steam. It’s kind of like one of those Chinese finger traps. Lean into the Lord and you will come free.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I couldn’t agree more, IB. Ironically, the self-appointed watchdogs with their witch hunts do much more damage to the body of Christ than the doctrines they think are so dangerous. Paul called this kind of divisiveness carnal in 1 Corinthians. He couldn’t talk to them as spiritual people because they were so caught up in who’s right and who’s following who (1 Cor.3:1-7). Hopefully, one of these days we’ll finally get it and grow up and follow Christ instead.

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