All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5: 18, 19

 

It seems that everyone has had the experience of being in an awkward place with another person. I know that I have been there, and this is not a pleasant place to be. You are concerned about running into the other person and often do things to avoid those encounters. Some of these difficult relationships are never resolved. They stay strained and broken for the rest of time. This is where humanity is at as it relates to God. We exist with a relationship that is strained beyond breaking, and this is the nature of that interaction that we each receive as our birthright. The single greatest tension that every newly born person encounters is this one in which we engage in an internal battle between our separation and independence from God and our need for relationship with our Creator. This struggle finds its resolution in and through the presence of Christ in our lives. There is no other way or means for each of us to enjoy reconciliation with our God.

 

Now most of us, when we are distanced from another person, go to almost any length to avoid our antagonist, or at least we do this until the situation is right for us to engage with that other person. This is not the way that God operates. He boldly approaches each of us, and He lays out His desire for restoration and for deep and intimate engagement for us to plainly see. The Lord is unceasing in this pursuit of us, and He does not stop with it until we relent and turn to Him through Christ or our days on earth come to their end. There is absolutely no escaping or avoiding an encounter with God. We can accept the love and the grace that He desires to pour out upon us during this life, or we will face judgment for our rejection of it in the life to come. For those of us who have put aside our avoidance and surrendered ourselves to Christ, there comes a new freedom in this life and with that freedom there also arise new responsibilities.

 

We are free from the burden of prejudice and that of fear. We can journey through this world without the shield of protection that comes about as we set out our differences from others and hold onto human distinctives as our marks of superiority or authority. In Christ we are brought to a level of worth that is equal to all other people, and this is the highly elevated one of bearer of God’s image. As we have received mercy, grace, and the love that sets us free from sin and its death, we are also empowered and freed from the bondage of broken-world thinking that works to separate and to divide people from each other. By dwelling in Christ, our eyes should be opened to see the beauty and the God imbued value of every person on this earth. This eyes-of-Christ vision removes the worldly divisors of gender, race, societal status, and nationality from our consideration of whether we should seek out, defend and protect, or share the love of Christ with any individual or group of people. Our Lord’s directive to us is to be imitators of Christ. That means that we join with Him in holding out forgiveness and in granting grace to everyone. We are to become relentless workers for Christ who seek to demonstrate the truth of the Gospel to each person that we meet and who also promote that attitude in our homes, churches, and communities.

Therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

Genesis 3: 23

 

There is an old expression, “There is trouble in the garden.” which refers to the fact that there is struggle and strife in whatever form of human relationship is undergoing scrutiny. This expression and the idea behind it come directly from the third chapter of Genesis. This is the point in the narrative of human history where people turned away from God and began to believe that they were more capable of determining their own course and proceeding through life. This is the moment when the perfection of creation was fractured and the absolute intimacy between people and God was almost fatally broken. All of humanity became estranged from God, and God required these newly defined strangers to disperse out of the eternity of His absolute presence.

 

Although we started this long history of life outside of the garden of God’s total presence in a place to the east from the home of our creation, over time and as our numbers increased we migrated to every corner of the world. Yet, each of these new lands and all of the territory that we occupied remained a foreign land in regards to restoration of our place in intimate relationship with God. So, throughout the history of humanity, God has retained the role of pursuing shepherd. He has continually come out in search of the lost, the Lord has provided comfort and protection for us in this harsh land of our own choosing, and the Father provided the Son to be a final and absolute answer to this separation.

 

So, all people are strangers to the land of God’s dwelling. We spend our lives in transit from the sin-ravaged and desolate landscapes of our birth toward a land where we can dwell in the presence of our Creator. Some people arrive in this place, and others never find its rest. The difference in those journeys is Christ. Knowing Him transforms our personal dwelling, that is our bodies, into God’s promised land of grace, love, and peace for the soul. Until we know Christ, we remain strangers and migrants on a road through life that leads only to death. God purposefully takes us in as immigrants to His kingdom of life, and through Christ all people without regard to race, religion, or place of birth become full citizens of God’s renewed spiritual kingdom.