Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Colossians 1:21-23)
Paul powerfully contrasts “alienation” with “reconciliation” to illustrate the effects of the transformative work Christ accomplished through His body on the cross. Paul calls us to a sense of gratitude in knowing that the old state of alienation has passed away and the new state of restoration and grace has come. Everything about how Paul speaks of this contrast between “alienation” and “reconciliation” calls us to pay attention: His movement through time, from past estrangement to a current reconciled relational status, and even to our future hope of standing in the great judgment of all things—fully reconciled—are included in these words. He may have even created a new word to express this newly reconciled state, a word that possibly avoided any theological baggage from the surrounding pagan culture; a “clean slate” of a word Paul himself might have first filled with meaning and unpacked for the Colossians. Αποκαταλλασσω (apokatallasso). This jumbled together word, used only among Christians in the Greek speaking ancient world, has connotations of living a life according to the transforming work of Christ.
The source of all things restored came to us through a body. All these hopes and promises of the gospel come through the mysterious work of reconciliation that took place within and through Christ’s body, a body that lived and moved among the very people created in His image. Mysteriously this very body was broken for the sake of our restoration. Within His body, more than just guilt was removed. Within His body more than just a relationship was restored. Everything was reoriented through Christ from that moment onward that was broken! Everything that was broken about our lives before He came into them has been atoned for. Everything that causes alienation presently for us has its answer in Jesus’ body broken for you and for me right now. And one day, as we stand together in His presence, we will stand not as aliens but in a reconciled state, and with the same hope that came to us when we first heard the gospel and believed. Paul reminds the Colossians, and us as well, that we now stand before God as new creations, as masterpieces of grace and love, because we are reconciled to Christ in and through His body, broken for us on the cross in death.
Everything has been reconciled to Himself. It is a completed and present fact, a hope already dancing in our lives and burning in our hearts. Let us look to the past and remember how separate we once were from the knowledge of God’s love, and how grateful we are now that the distance of our former darkened flailing is reconciled in Him. Let us look at the struggles we face today as truly the hope filled struggles of God’s reconciled people; a people happy, joyous, and free through Christ’s broken body; a body broken to bring our hearts back to His. And let us look to the future without fear, trusting that this earth-shaking work of God—on the cross and in our lives—will one day stand us face to face in His presence, fully transformed and fully alive before Him.