resurrection and reconciliation

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the relational implications of Easter ever since my post from last week, “the offense of the cross.”

The New Testament is full of radical teaching and admonition for a new era of relationships - the relationship between God and humanity as well as relationships between humans themselves (and you could add all of creation).

Galatians 3:28 is one of the most incisive of these radical teachings: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

But we don’t often think of these passages in relation to Easter - this time to focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection. Most often, and rightly so, Easter leads us to simply stand in awe at God’s great love for humanity displayed on the cross.

Yet such response is hard to sustain. We attempt to devoutly love Jesus simply for “Jesus’ sake” all the while realizing such a commitment detaches ourselves - the very object of God’s love - from the equation (My friend Ryan recently offered some helpful thoughts that influenced this post). Resurrection is all about God’s work, indeed, but a work for us.

What does Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for us?

Looking at the contrasts in Genesis 2-3 is one place to start. The unity between God and humans in Genesis 2 describes a situation where love simply is - God and humans in full harmony. Contrast this with the fear and shame of the post-fruit God-human relationship of Genesis 3 and we can’t help but want – in fact need – something from God. To be full image bearers united with God (Gen. 2) we need to overcome the absence of unity (Gen. 3). We call this the problem of sin. But note how right from the beginning the problem is relational - division contrasts God’s original intention of unity. As history reveals - and likely our personal lives to varying degrees - our most basic human need is to repair this division.

We need reconciliation.

Jesus’ witness on Palm Sunday and Good Friday reveals how subversive and costly fulfillment of this need is. Unity cannot come through coercion as only God truly knows. And then resurrection Sunday speaks to the beauty and breadth of new life, humanity united once again with God. Without Easter, we wouldn’t be capable of loving God or each other – “We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).

In this sense, Easter is all about reconciliation - reconciliation with God and one another. Resurrection presumes a return of relationship, not just a cosmic stamp of approval that guarantees our entry into heaven (as the benefits of Easter are too often communicated). Nor is resurrection merely an intellectual concept for consideration. And we definitely aren’t passive recipients of God’s love when it comes to resurrection. With the reconciliation of the resurrection comes our full participation - “fellowship” - with God in all we do (1 Jn. 1:3).

And so we hear Paul assert we are “all one in Christ”; we read stories of transformation and growth in the early church; we look at the sustained love and witness of Christians throughout the ages; and we remember all this is based on the tangible reconciling work of Jesus' death and resurrection - death to life, disunity to unity.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 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 (Col 1:19-20)

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