by Robert Beames
We were finishing up on the 17th hole at a local miniature golf course during a recent family outing when I realized I had recorded scores for only 16 holes on our scorecard. Normally, I would have thought I simply forgot to score one of the holes, but since the same thing had happened just a week ago at the same course, it just didn’t make sense. A perfectionist like me rarely makes the same mistake twice.
This time the whole family was playing, so I carefully recorded each stroke, so I could announce the winner of every hole in an attempt to make it a special event. Of course, I was miffed about missing the score for one entire hole! This time the scorecard had to be reconciled.
After everyone had knocked their ball in the last hole, I explained the situation to my wife, who promptly mocked me saying, “Why don’t you walk around and count all the holes?” My wife and I were on the same page – another rare event – so I asked my son, a recent kindergarten graduate, if he wanted to count the holes. That way it would look like his idea. Off we went walking past each hole making sure we didn’t somehow miss playing one. In the end, we found we had played every hole. Go figure!
I never did determine what happened that day but it started me thinking, mostly about how ridiculous I must have looked trying to verify the number of holes at the golf course – as if it could have gone unnoticed for years with only 17 – but also, about how desperate we all are for reconciliation. Naturally, we want to see things add up. We desire broken things to be fixed, especially relationships.
The need for relational reconciliation is a condition which only the gospel of Christ completely addresses. God knows that sin created holes in our souls, and severed our intimate connection with Him beyond repair. God’s design was not to only fix our broken hearts, but to mend our relationship with Him, as well. Really, one cannot be accomplished without the other.
God’s word contrasts our past condition with our current hope in Christ with such scriptures as Colossians 1:21-23, “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 verse clearly defines our previous status without Christ as despised enemies of God. Our separation from God was, and is, directly caused by our own actions. The sin of the first man cut us off from the presence of God. Having been born with sinful natures, we take ownership of our estrangement each time we sin. Yet, it is God who uses the death of Jesus to patch things up. He sprinkles the blood of Christ on broken, convicted criminals, and suddenly we are perfect, without flaw, and above reproach from anyone.
All that remains is to continue believing in this amazing truth. The picture is drawn of the priceless hope of reconciliation being offered to us with outstretched arms. We hardly want to move out of the way and miss the opportunity to accept the gift by faith.
Notice that all the action in this verse is happening in the present time. We aren’t waiting for this repair to happen, although there’s more to come. Our situation is clearly explained. Once we were distant from God; presently, we reside near Him. Before, we were enemies of God; now, we are perfect in His sight and we are deeply loved by Him.
Although the concept is straightforward, its ramifications are far reaching. Since we are already accepted by God, we need not strive to gain His approval. He will never reject us. Although our sin is repugnant to Him, He eagerly welcomes us based on the bond we have with His Son.
It’s a bit like that brother-in-law you really don’t like, but you put up with because of your sister. It’s like that third wheel hanging around you and your best friend – you keep quiet for the sake of your friend. It’s like that jerk who’s dating the girl you really want to date – you treat him decently because you know it will only make you look bad if you don’t. It’s like being chest-to-chest with the bouncer of an exclusive club until someone important comes by and says, “It’s okay. He’s with me.”
Only the last comparison comes close to the way God has embraced us through Christ. God doesn’t simply put up with us, nor is He concerned with the way He is perceived. He actually wants to be with us, and is pleased to love us, although we are greatly flawed. That’s why it’s so difficult for us to fully comprehend how thoroughly He has restored our relationship with Him, let alone accept it.
We are accepted because of Jesus – end of story. We need not fear the rejection of God again. It’s logical to err in thinking God only gives us an opportunity to win His approval with acts of righteousness, but we know these acts are actually filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Fortunately, our reunion has been completed by the physical death of His Son. We’re okay because we’re with Him.
But, we are better than okay. We are beyond accusation. We need not strive for anyone’s approval because we are greatly cherished by the only one who matters. We no longer need to live making decisions based on what others might think, or based on what may cause them to alienate us. Reconciliation frees us from the compulsion to be part of that group whose membership we covet so desperately.
Whether we are counting the holes on a miniature golf course, or failing to meet the expectations of significant others in our lives, we keep the dignity given to us by Christ. No one can point a finger at us. Our value doesn’t have to rise and fall according to the thumbs up or thumbs down we receive from others. This comes and goes like the newest technology.
In the end, we can stand firm knowing that our God accepts us unconditionally. This is the hope offered in the gospel. It’s worth becoming a slave to that same gospel, rather than a slave to the whims of those we are trying to please. Reconciliation is real. It is complete as we continue to trust in Christ. It frees us from the grip of people-pleasing. It allows us to offer our gifts and time to Him out of gratitude, rather than out of the fear He may reject us. Because of Christ’s death, we are absolutely accepted in His presence!
(I believe He wanted me to remind you of this.)